Korn Ferry Grad Power Rankings: Will Zalatoris & Taylor Pendrith Among Top New PGA Tour Members
Maddie Meyer/PGA of America/PGA of America via Getty Images. Pictured: Will Zalatoris.
The Korn Ferry Tour regular season came to close Sunday and gave us 25 new PGA TOUR members for the 2021-2022 season.
With an elongated, two-year campaign, we became a little more familiar with this group than many of the past, but we’ll take a look at how their results and playing styles could translate over to the main tour.
No. 1 Will Zalatoris
We all know Zalatoris at this point, so I won’t waste much time here. If he figures out the putter, he’ll be a top-10 player. If not, he could drift in to Keegan Bradley territory. We’ll see which direction he goes from here.
No. 2 Taylor Pendrith
Pendrith is going to have success on the PGA TOUR. He hits the ball a mile and was above average with the irons. The short game is streaky, but he’s shown it’s good enough. He’s got a taste of the big tour this season, making the cut in four of five starts with the only miss at the U.S. Open.
No. 3 Taylor Moore
Moore had a very consistent season with 11 top-10 finishes. He doesn’t really have a hole in his game. He’s above average with length and accuracy off the tee. The irons were especially strong as well, and when he did miss a green, he was a top-five scrambler for large portions of the year.
No. 4 Nick Hardy
Hardy is another strong all-around player who had 10 top 10s, he just didn’t find the win this year. The irons are extremely good and should keep him on the PGA TOURfor years to come. His short game could improve, but it was still above average for the KFT. His profile lines up closely with Xander Schauffele, who also didn’t win on the KFT, but hit the grounding running on the big stage. I don’t know if Hardy will reach those heights, but the skillset is there for him to be very successful.
No. 5 Curtis Thompson
Curtis, who’s probably better known for being Lexi’s brother, finally gets his shot on the PGA TOUR after years of falling short. Thompson is a bomber with some good iron play to back it up, so he could find a lot of success. He’s a boom-or-bust type guy though. He had three top-three finishes but no other results better than 10th. If we get him on some longer courses at big numbers, especially he could pay off.
No. 6 Greyson Sigg
Sigg starts a run here of guys who just keep the ball in play off the tee and rely on those irons and putter to get the job done. He’s another Georgia Bulldog on tour and we see guys like Brian Harman, Russell Henley and Harris English all pop up in similar places each year. Sigg could follow suit and join his fellow UGA alums on these shorter courses where distance isn’t as big of a factor.
No. 7 Chad Ramey
Ramey is a little shorter than Sigg, but was elite with the irons and short game on the KFT. When the course fit his eye, he was a factor, finishing inside the top four on seven occasions. He’s another SEC guy from Mississippi State, so when we get on those shorter, Bermuda courses, he’s going to get a look from me.
No. 8 Mito Pereira
Mito has already got a good taste of the PGA TOUR after his three-win promotion. He’s shown the lower the scores are, the better his chances are as he really seems to thrive in the birdie-fests. My concern with him is that he didn’t have a clear-cut strength during the season and has really just been in white-hot form this summer. When he cools off, he went 10 months on the KFT this past season with just one top 10, and if he resorts back to that type of play, he could struggle a bit.
No. 9 Adam Svensson
The Canadian Svensson is a good ball-striker and showed in 2019 that part of his game was good enough to compete on the PGA TOUR . The putter was a disaster though and sent him back down to the KFT. He appears to have figured that out to some extent during this marathon Korn Ferry campaign and was a great scrambler and around a field-average putter. He’s one of the guys that could come out firing in the fall.
No. 10 Lee Hodges
Hodges is like many of the guys above here: good irons, good short game. He’s not as strong as the players ahead of him, but showed a little more length of the tee to make up the difference. He was another solid, consistent player from SEC country in Alabama, so it wouldn’t be a shock for him to pop up on the leaderboards down south.
No. 11 Ben Kohles
Kohles is among the shortest hitters of the graduates, but he almost never misses a green or a fairway. He’s not as good of putter as the guys above him with similar skills sets, which is probably what kept him out of the winner’s circle on the KFT this season. He got off to hot start early in 2020 with two top 3s in four starts, but only picked up four more top 10s in the final 34 starts.
No. 12 Davis Riley
My love for Riley is well known at this point. But he’s definitely had a dip in form in 2021 from his start in 2020. He’s long enough off the tee and the irons are above average. His problem tends to come from around the greens. He’s not been very good at saving par and avoiding big numbers on some easier courses that what the PGA TOUR will show. He’s shown the ability to get hot for a round or two, but the consistency is still lacking if he’s really going to breakthrough here.
No. 13 Brandon Wu
The Stanford alum is a little shorter than Riley but better with the irons and has similar short-game issues that held him back at times. But Wu showed he was definitely worthy of his spot on TOUR , qualifying in only 25 events, where many of his counterparts and at least 35 starts in the past two years. The KFT doesn’t spend much time on the west coast, but he could pop up on a leaderboard or two in the lower level events out there.
No. 14 Austin Smotherman
Smotherman is the last guy in at No. 25 on the points list but has the ball-striking ability to give himself a chance to compete. The irons where excellent and the driver is very solid, but the short game was a nightmare at times, which led to 15 missed cuts in 38 events. We know the putter is the club that’s the most volatile, but he has work to do to get near average there.
No. 15 Cameron Young
Young is a pure bomber who got really hot in the middle of the year and won back-to-back events that locked up his card. But the irons were just mediocre over the course of the season, and his short game was just average. He missed the cut in about half of his events and has a profile very similar to what we saw from Martin Trainer coming up. Trainer popped up with a win in Puerto Rico at a big number and kept his card for awhile. Young could follow that path, but if he wants to be around for the long haul, there’s a lot to clean up still.
No. 16 David Lipsky
Lipsky doesn’t really pop up for me too well from a numbers standpoint, but I’ll put him up here since I know he’s basically won on every tour he’s played. He’s a two-time European Tour winner who’s also had a lot of success in Asia. After picking up the KFT win, this in the natural progression for his career. But his heavy reliance on his short game always leads to concerns when these guys move up a level.
No. 17 Stephen Jaeger
Jaeger has been golf’s version of a Quadruple-A player. He absolutely crushes the Korn Ferry Tour, but the ball-striking is lacking to this point and he’s struggled on the bigger stage. The irons have been better this year, which could give him a better chance this time.
No. 18 Brett Drewitt
The Australian gets another chance after losing his PGA status in 2017. The game is still in a similar spot though as to when he drifted back down four years ago. It’s a lot of short game with him. The irons have improved since then, so like Jaeger, he may have stick around in 2022.
No. 19 Andrew Novak
Novak was pretty mediocre ball-striking throughout the year, but the short game was fantastic at times. 10 top 10s shows that when the putter is working, he’s fine, but 18 missed cuts in 39 events is a red flag for his level of consistency.
No. 20 Paul Barjon
Barjon is probably a better all-around ball striker than the last three or four guys, but there’s a definitive drop in his short game ability. He’s a guys that’s alright at a lot of things, but doesn’t have a clear cut skill that we know he can bank on at the PGA level. Couple that with a balky putter and there’s some concerns for him.
No. 21 Seth Reeves
Reeves has above average distance, but the rest of the game is lacking at the PGA TOUR level. We see it here again with the consistency issue. He’s got 14 top 25s, but 15 missed cuts. We saw him on TOUR in 2019, and the driver was alright some weeks, but the rest of his game was lacking and I don’t see a lot of difference this time either.
No. 22 Jared Wolfe
Wolfe is basically like Reeves, with above-average length, but not much else appears like it will transition over. The difference is Reeves has that year of PGA experience recently and sometimes that proves to be the difference compared to the guys who are getting their first shot with the game’s best.
No. 23 Max McGreevy
McGreevy is the shortest hitter off the tee of the graduates, so he’ll have to have the rest of the game ready to go to compete out here. The irons were slightly above average on the KFT and short game was solid, so he has a chance. But he was a notch below the other shorter hitter we’ve mention on a approach.
No. 24 Dylan Wu
Wu isn’t quite as short as McGreevy and the irons are about the same, but he’s not been quite as good on the greens. Without a specific strength in the ball-striking category, it’s going to be a battle to hang around.
No. 25 David Skinns
The 39-year-old from England won the final event of their to earn his status, so he was a great story. But outside of the putter, the rest of the game appears to be lacking for the PGA level. What I will say for Skinns, and the rest of the group as a whole, is the the two-year Korn Ferry season allowed the cream to really rise. Skinns may be 25th here, but his profile would have been top 20 at least in every other year I’ve ranked these guys and would have came in around 15th in 2018 in the Sungjae Im/Sam Burns class. Top to bottom, this is as deep as we’ve seen.
The next three weeks, the KFT Finals take place as players who’ve missed out on their cards during the PGA or KFT season get one last shot to get status. One Korn Ferry guy to watch and root for will be Callum Tarren. He’s a guy that is really long and top 20 in GIR. So he checks the ball-striking boxes we like. He’ just been an average putter all year, so he doesn’t have the super high-end finishes to get to the PGA TOUR, but he was inside the top 25 on 15 occasions this year.