2022 PGA TOUR Preview: 4 Players We’re Buying to Break Out, Including Keith Mitchell & 2 Korn Ferry Grads
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Keith Mitchell.
Every year, there are players who emerge to become contenders on the PGA TOUR.
In 2021, the perfect example of this was Sam Burns. After a successful college career at LSU, Burns started out on the then-Web.com Tour before establishing himself with a place on the TOUR in 2019. Last year, though, Burns won twice and was consistently near the top of the leaderboard throughout 2021.
Bettors who potentially saw something in Burns were able to benefit early on. So who can they look to in 2022?
Three of our GolfBet analysts have looked up and down the TOUR and picked one player to back early on. Check out their picks and breakdown below:
Jason Sobel: There are plenty of players who own value entering the new year, players who will open at prices in January/February tournaments that won’t be available by season’s end. I like Aaron Wise, Mito Pereira and Doug Ghim to each take that next step in their careers – all players I listed in my annual column on guys to make “The Leap” – but I think Mitchell owns a higher floor than those three and should turn out to be the most consistent results but with tons of upside.
It’s no secret that Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee has become predictive for future success. Mitchell is one of the best drivers around, ranking 11th in this category last season and 12th already this season. That ability should offer a major advantage on most weeks and when it combines with a plus-performance with his irons and/or putter, he should continue to climb leaderboards.
I think the UGA product is a guy whose low-end potential is a ticket to the Tour Championship as one of the top-30 on the points list, while owning some win equity anytime he tees it up. It wouldn’t surprise me if his PGA TOUR win total, currently at one, increases by a couple this season.
Chris Murphy: Golf is in a really great spot and as I dug into some players that I liked to take the next step, that fact was really highlighted. There are a number of guys ready to become names to watch week in and week out on TOUR.
Aaron Wise is at the top of that list for me as he finally showed some good consistency in his play at the end of last season and into the fall.
Wise is a former Oregon Duck and part of a National Championship-winning team from 2016. He rolled that success into his first win at the professional level in 2018 at the Byron Nelson but fell off during his 2020 season.
This year, he started slow but has reeled off 14 straight made cuts, including four top-10 finishes. Two of those top-10s came during the fall swing, during which he transitioned to a long, broomstick putter and seems to have found something with his game on the greens. The putter is undoubtedly the weakest aspect of Wise’s game as he ranked in the Top 50 of all ball striking categories, including 25th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green last season, but 174th in putting.
If he can keep improving with his short game, Wise will find himself in position to win in 2022 and the 25-year-old could put his name back in the mix of up and comers on TOUR.
Matt Vincenzi: The 24-year-old turned pro two seasons ago but faced uncertainty with status due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With professional golf on hiatus for three months and the Korn Ferry Qualifying Tournament canceled for the year, the path to playing on the TOUR was convoluted at best. Theegala considered going back to play another season of NCAA golf, but having been the reigning player of the year he had little left to prove at that level.
The 2020 Haskins Award winner from Pepperdine missed the cut at the first event of the Korn Ferry Tour finals, which caused some doubt for Theegala and those close to him. He bounced back in resounding fashion, though, to finish T4 at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship and secured his TOUR card for the 2022 season.
Trying to earn a PGA TOUR card can be an absolute grind and proved to be a difficult journey for Theegala over the past few years. With the stress of not knowing where his next start will be in the rearview mirror, the Californian should be freed up to have an excellent season.
Some of his supreme talent was on display back in October at the Sanderson Farms Championship, where he finished eighth after a hot start. Theegala finished fifth that week in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and had positive Strokes Gained metrics in every significant category for the week.
Theegala is long off the tee and gains an average of 2.0 strokes in driving distance on the field throughout his career thus far. Alternatively, he loses about 2.2 strokes to the field per event in driving accuracy. If he can get more control of his golf ball off the tee in 2022, he has a real shot to win Rookie of the Year.
Justin Bailey: Taylor Moore is a recent Korn Ferry grad who had 22 top-10 finishes in his Korn Ferry career. Thirteen of those top-10 finishes came during his 2020-2021 season.
Moore only had five tournament appearances on the PGA TOUR last season, when he went T8, MC, T24, T27, MC. Certainly nothing to write home about, but he’s someone I want to be early on.
Data Golf has him ranked 45th in their rankings, while the Official World Golf Rankings are lower on him at 121st. Looking at discrepancies between Data Golf’s rankings and the OWGR is one of my favorite ways to peg breakout players.
The best part about backing Moore? The cost is cheap (for now). In his five tournaments last year, he was between 80-1 and 125-1 in every event (depending on your book).
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