2019 Korn Ferry Graduate Power Rankings: Scheffler, Brehm Lead the Pack

2019 Korn Ferry Graduate Power Rankings: Scheffler, Brehm Lead the Pack article feature image
Credit:

Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Ryan Brehm

  • The 2019 Korn Ferry Tour regular season has ended and that means there are 25 new members of the PGA Tour.
  • Josh Perry ranks all 25 new card-holders and provides insight on which players bettors should get to know ahead of the new PGA season.

The Korn Ferry Tour (think Triple-A for the PGA Tour and was previously known as the Web.com Tour) regular season has come to a close, which means we have 25 new PGA Tour members.

It will be another month before we see the new card-holders in action at the Greenbrier in September, but it can’t hurt to get a jump start now and try to identify the players

It will be another month before we see them in action on the PGA Tour at Greenbrier in September, but we’ll get a jump start now and see who will have the staying power on tour and potentially win an event.

It’s also a good spot to cross some names off early and try to save money rather than having to guess how skills will translate.

Of the 25 regular season grads in 2018, just eight earned enough points to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs, while a ninth, Martin Trainer, will keep his card after winning in Puerto Rico.

In addition to Trainer, there were two other players from the Class of ’18 that won an event on Tour — Cameron Champ and Adam Long.

The upcoming Fall Swing is the best spot for new grads to shine. Most of the starts sit out these tournaments so the fields are weaker and thanks to the Korn Ferry Tour Playoffs, these guys don’t have to worry about shaking off the rust. They’ll all be playing competitive golf for the next three weeks, while regular tour members could end up sitting out for over a month if they don’t advance in the FedEx Cup.

Since the KFT doesn’t have stokes gained data, we have to use more basic stats like driving distance and Greens In Regulation (GIR) to evaluate how players stack up with the fellow PGA Tour members.

Distance is the biggest asset on Tour at the moment and gets the most weight from me. The bombers have the advantage on most courses on tour with tracks like Harbour Town and Colonial becoming fewer and far between. With more courses catering to length, those guys simply have more chances to compete.

Next up is GIR. The KFT is a birdie-fest most weeks. So the name of the game is hitting greens and giving yourself as many good looks as possible for those birdies. A lot of the swing events will also be low-scoring affairs that will require a similar mindset to be successful.

Ball-striking is king on the PGA Tour, if guys hit the ball a long way and are getting on the green in regulation, those attributes have the best chances of carrying over to the next level.

I’ll also look a little at the short game, but I don’t put much emphasis on putting. There are a lot of guys who get their tour cards because of random wins thanks to a hot putter, but they consistently struggle on the Korn Ferry Tour. Those players will likely have a tough time sticking around the PGA Tour.

2019 Korn Ferry Tour Graduate Power Rankings

1. Scottie Scheffler

If there’s a star in this class, Scheffler would be my pick.

Scheffler finished inside the top 10 in just about half his starts as a rookie and boasts top-20 rankings in both distance and GIR.

He finished inside the top 10 in about half the time as a KFT rookie. He’s also inside the top 20 in both distance and GIR. He cashed a nice top-20 bet for us earlier this year at the Valero Texas Open and made the cut in three of this four PGA tour starts this year.

Keep him mind for Houston in the Fall Swing and hope we get a good number for the former Longhorn.

2. Ryan Brehm

Brehm had one season on the PGA Tour, and he put up pretty solid numbers. He made 17 of 25 cuts in 2017, but the weekends seemed to be a problem. He finished inside the top 25 just once.

He hits the ball a mile and gets a lot of birdie looks and, like Scheffler, he’s top 20 in both distance and GIR.

The PGA Tour can having a learning curve for a lot of players. Brehm should be better prepared than most of these grads for a second chance.

3. Chase Seiffert

Seiffert was a guy I backed a few times on the KFT. A win seemed imminent, but it just never came. Even so, four top-5 finishes is more than enough to lock down a tour card without a victory.

His all-around game is as good as anyone on this tour. He’s not super long, but he’s above-average and the rest of his game is great. Like with most guys, it just comes down to the putter.

He’s only made six PGA starts, but does own a top-10 finish at Travelers.

4. Sebastian Cappelen

Cappelen’s game is extremely volatile. In 19 events, he made just eight cuts but had a win and runner up.

When betting outrights, that volatility can be in our favor because oddsmakers notice when guys are consistently in contention. Cappelen is the type of longshot that could come out of nowhere to steal an event at a big number.

He averages over 310 yards off the tee and hit over 70% of greens this year. Accuracy isn’t his thing, so stick to him at wide-open bomber tracks.

5. Lanto Griffin

Like Brehm, Griffin will be getting a second crack at the PGA Tour. He had one of the better seasons on the KFT with four top-10 finishes and only four missed cuts.

Griffin isn’t elite in any aspect of the game, but is simply above-average across the board.

When he was on the PGA Tour in 2018 he ended up with one top-25 finish and 13 missed cuts. Consistency was the problem that year, but he may have figured out something that works.

6. Xinjun Zhang

Zhang led the KFT regular season standings, but I’ve dropped him a few spots because he’s not as long off the tee as a couple of the players listed above. The 32-year-old still hits it 307 yards on average, so he’s not really short either.

Overall, Zhang’s game was great all season. He collected a pair of wins, a second-place finish and two thirds. Like Brehm and Griffin, he was a rookie the PGA Tour in 2018, so he’s another guy looking for a better year with a season under their belt.

7. Rhein Gibson

Outside of Scheffler, there aren’t any young starts making the jump. Instead, we’re seeing a lot of players in their early 30’s ready for a second chance at the PGA Tour. Gibson fits that mold.

The 33-year-old Aussie had his shot in 2016 but missed 11 of 20 cuts and hasn’t been back since. Gibson earned a win and four top-10 finishes this season but is shorter off the tee than everybody ahead of him on this list.

He still hits a good amount of greens though so he’s got a chance to stick around this time.

8. Harry Higgs

Higgs is the first guy on the list without a PGA Tour start.

In his first full KFT season, he notched a win and three top-3 finishes while missing just three cuts. Higgs had to grind his way through the PGA Latinoamérica Tour to get his chance this season and took full advantage.

His length is slightly above average, but he’s really accurate off the tee and hits a lot of greens, which will give him a chance to retain his card.

9. Bo Hoag

Hoag needed a strong performance at the last event of the season and he pulled out a win.

Hoag’s biggest strength is his iron-play. He entered the week second in GIR and that kind of ball-striking will give him a chance to succeed in the big show even though he lacks elite distance off the tee.

He entered the last week without a top 10, but only missed three cuts all year. The putter finally showed up for him in the final week of the regular season and that was enough to get him on Tour.

10. Scott Harrington

Harrington is the feel-good story from this KFT class as he’s been on the tour for a number of years without advancing. The 38-year old has made 193 starts on the secondary tour without a win and had to step away last year to tend to his wife while she battled cancer.

He was on the outside looking in heading into the final week, but a second-place finish vaulted him onto the PGA Tour. He ranks inside the top 20 for both distance and GIR, so he’s got a chance to do some damage next season even if the short game isn’t as strong as some other members of this list.

11. Henrik Norlander

Norlander was close to the PGA Tour winner’s circle, losing in a five-man playoff at the RSM Classic in 2017 to Mackenzie Hughes. However, that’s his only top-10 finish in 51 starts.

The KFT vet has made nearly a million dollars in over 100 starts on the secondary circuit. He’s pretty short off the tee, averaging less than 300 yards, so he’ll have to take advantage of courses like Sea Island — where he lost the aforementioned playoff — that cater to the shorter hitters.

12. Kristoffer Ventura

Ventura had no KFT status at the start of the year but he won twice and collected four top-5 finishes in eight starts.

The 24-year-old doesn’t have enough rounds for his stats to qualify but if he did, his distance would rank in the top 10. The rest of Ventura’s game isn’t as refined and he was really boom-or-bust, which again, is something we want from these potential longshots.

Ventura has slid under the radar behind his more famous college teammates, Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff, but Ventura has enough game to be as good in the long run.

13. Tyler McCumber

McCumber didn’t earn a win, but a trio of top-4 finishes was enough to get him a Tour card.

He’s another guy who drives the ball a long way, but isn’t quite as good with the irons or short game as the previously mentioned bombers. He was pretty consistent all year though, making the cut in 15 of 19 events.

14. Zac Blair

Blair has few seasons of PGA Tour experience under his belt, earning five top 10s in 120 starts and over $3 million in career earnings.

He’s one of the shortest hitters around but he rarely misses a fairway and can rely on a lights out short game. When his approach game is dialed in like it was the second half of the KFT season, he’s capable of racking up some good results.

Length really limits his upside compared to his fellow grads, but there are shorter courses where he can do a lot of damage.

15. Michael Gligic

Gligic really isn’t overly long and misses a lot of fairways but he still finds a way to knock it on a lot of greens, ranking inside the top 10 on the KFT in GIR.

Courses that really emphasize that second shot will be the best bet for this Canadian rookie to get a result. He’s missed the cut in all four of his PGA Tour starts.

16. Vincent Whaley

Whaley grabbed a second and third this year to earn his way to the PGA Tour. He’s long enough to compete, averaging 310 yards off the tee, but the rest of his game has just been a little better-than-average on the KFT.

He was a rookie on the secondary tour this season and quickly adapted. He will need to be a little more accurate to do the same on the PGA Tour.

17. Mark Hubbard

Hubbard is in a similar spot to Blair — he lacks the length to contend on a lot of courses.

He’s also not as good with the irons and less accurate off the tee. In 84 career PGA Tour starts, he’s still searching for that first top-10 finish.

18. Rafael Campos

Campos is my favorite guy on this list after hitting at 100-1 in the Bahamas for me. He’s long enough to compete on tour but his irons have been below average, so he’s only got one other top 10 outside of the victory.

He’s got three top 10s in 17 starts on the PGA Tour and tends to play well in his native Puerto Rico.

19. Robbie Shelton

Shelton has been one of the best players on the KFT, but he’s a guy I worry about being overvalued early and I can see him struggling in the big leagues.

He’s just average off the tee and his irons are solid, but he’s not among the top 20 in GIR. Without that elite-level ball-striking, he’s more reliant on the short game than I’d like. He does own one top-10 finish in 14 career PGA Tour starts.

20. Maverick McNealy

McNealy has the distance, but the rest of his game didn’t really stand out this season. He wasn’t very accurate off the tee and struggled around the greens.

The iron game was a little better than average, but there are some holes he needs to plug. In 17 PGA Tour starts, he’s without any top 25s.

21. Michael Gellerman

Gellerman just has average length off the tee, and relying more on accuracy and iron play.

His short game struggled at times and he was pretty inconsistent. Gellerman had a win and a third, but only one other top-25 finish and missed half his cuts.

After three years of bouncing between the Korn Ferry and MacKenzie Tours, this will be his first chance at getting PGA Tour starts.

22. Tim Wilkinson

The New Zealand native has the most PGA Tour experience of anyone in this bunch. He’s made 162 starts and has eight top 10s with the best finish coming in 2008 at the Valero Texas Open when he tied for second behind Zach Johnson.

Wilkinson is a lot like Blair. He’s not long off the tee, but not as accurate or as good with the irons. His short game also is notch below Blair’s.

23. Mark Anderson

Anderson has battled injury problems, but picked up a win and is heading back to the PGA Tour where he’s made 66 starts.

He really relies on the short game so I’m not expecting much from him. He’s short off the tee and his accuracy is just average, which is never a good starting point. He’s also barely inside the top 100 in GIR.

24. Vince Covello

The 36-year old gets his first crack at the PGA Tour after four seasons on the KFT. Covello is solid from tee to green, but doesn’t really have the length to stand out.

He also really struggled around the greens this year. He only made seven cuts in 18 starts, but a win and a fourth is enough for a tour card. His lack of consistency could prove to be an issue.

25. Nelson Ledesma

Ledesma had a win and five top 10s on the KFT this year, but his overall stats don’t really line up with what I want.

He’s outside the top 50 in distance with below average accuracy and ranks outside the top 125 in GIR. He’s far too dependent on the short game for my liking.

Korn Ferry Tour Playoffs Watch

The Korn Ferry Tour Playoffs begin this week and there are 25 more cards at stake after the final three events.

I’ll be keeping an eye on Joseph Bramlett and Kevin Dougherty to see if they can finally break through. Both players have been close in recent years, but they always seem to fall just short.

Bramlett and Dougherty both have terrific ball-striking numbers but can never get their putters to cooperate.

Dougherty entered the final week of the regular season No. 2 in distance and No. 15 in GIR but has only managed two top 10s in 19 tournaments.

Bramlett isn’t as long but is more accurate and is inside the top 10 in GIR. I think both can make an impact on tour.

And if they don’t, I just want them there so I can finally get so strokes gained numbers to see how bad their putters really are.