Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.
December 26th is always an important day for fantasy golf players and big fans of professional golf. This is the day we look forward to the new year of golf and what surprises await us. So GolfStats is going to give our consummate readers a guide that will help in choosing the best players and those that will break out and become a stellar force in golf. We will start with a look at those players that gave us a hint in the seven event fall series that they will be good in 2017.
After that we will take a look at those that play the best in several categories, from playing on Bent, Bermuda and Poa Greens, to those that play well in the winter, spring, summer and fall. We will also explore who plays well during certain months of the year, along with breaking up the PGA Tour year into different sections like who plays the best on courses near big bodies of water, who plays well on TPC courses and on tight and wide open courses. We will also look at which players do well on certain courses and help you find those perfect horses for courses.
We will also have our pick your pro choices for 2017 and looking ahead for those that play DraftKing games.
Hope you enjoy it, first is a piece on who showed us promise in the seven event fall series which started the 2016/19 PGA Tour season and how we should rate them in the coming year.
The best of the fall:
At the end of the 2016 season, 23 of the 50 players from the 2015 Web.Com Tour graduating class were able to retain their PGA Tour cards for 2017. That is a remarkable number, the reason for the high number is the wrap-around season. In the times before the wrap around season, players ended the year in November and then it was the PGA Tour qualifying school in December. For those that got there tour card off the Web.Com tour, that ended in November. So for those that earn PGA Tour cards in November and December, they had to wait for play to start in January. Only problem a lot of the fields were shortened because of the shortness of days which couldn’t accommodate full 156 player fields so playing opportunities were rare, specially for those with a low priority numbers. So that ment that many only got to play in two or three tournaments before things started loosening up in March and April.
With the new wrap-around schedule and the Web.Com playoffs, the disadvantage has been taken away. For the 50 that got their card via the Web.Com Tour playoffs, they only had to wait a couple of weeks before the start of the new tour year, so those that played well in the playoffs, there good play carried over to the season. A perfect example of that was the play of Mackenzie Hughes, Rod Pampling and Cody Gribble who were in the Web.Com playoffs and did well in them. All three went on to win events in the fall season and with it secured a good future on the PGA Tour for years to come.
So let’s look a bit at some of these graduates and those that made big moves in the first seven events on the PGA Tour in 2017:
Those that will be strong this year
Hideki Matsuyama – Making the biggest splash in the fall had to be Matsuyama. He only played twice on the PGA Tour, winning the WGC-HSBC Champions and finishing 2nd at the CIMB CLassic, but that was only the start of his brillance. He also won the Japan Open and the VISA Taiheiyo Masters on the Japan Golf Tour and ended things with a two shot win at Tiger Woods Hero World Challenge. Matsuyama will be 25 in February but we have know of him since he won the 2010 Asia-Pacific Amateur then finishing T-27th at the Masters the following year. After turning pro in 2013 he finished T-10th at the U.S. Open and then T-6th at the British Open. After finishing T-19th at the PGA Championship and then 15th at the Wyndham Championship in his six PGA Tour starts he earned enough FedExCup non-member points to get him a PGA Tour card for 2014. He was inconsistent in his first year on tour, but did notch a win at the Memorial. What many didn’t realize was the for most of the year Matsuyama had wrist problems and it didn’t properly heal until the end of 2015. Matsuyama showed a return to form with a win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and for most of the year was fine. He struggled for close to 8 weeks in between the Players Championship and the British Open, but bounced back finishing T-4th at the PGA Championship. Since his 5th place finish at the Tour Championship, he hasn’t been out of the top-five except for a T-6th finish teamed with Ryo Ishikawa at the World Cup of Golf. In looking at some reason for him playing well other than being injury free, one thing that pops up and that is putting. After the BMW Championship he was 125th on the PGA Tour in Strokes gained putting and 158th in putts inside 10 feet. Over the course of 2015 and 2016 his putting had gotten worst and for some reason it completely turned around. At the Tour Championship he was 1st in Strokes Gained putting and putts inside 10 feet. In his win at the Japan Open his putting stats werent’ the best but they could of been compromised by being 2nd in greens hit. In his next start at the CIMB CLassic he was 8th in greens hit but was 6th in Putting average and T-10th in putts per round. The next week with his win at the WGC-HSBC Champions he led putting average and was T-2nd in putts per round. In his next start winning the VISA Taiheiyo Masters on the Japan Tour again putting was good, he finished 2nd. Then with his win at the Hero World Challenge, stats weren’t kept but you don’t make 22 birdies and 2 eagles unless you are putting well. So as 2017 begins, it will be interesting to watch Matsuyama. He has played just once at Kapalua and finished T-3rd, now that is a course in which good putters are rewarded. Later in the month he will be defending his Waste Management win, in two other Phoenix starts he has finished T-2nd and T-4th. We have always thought that Matsuyama could be the best Asian Golf period and one to watch when the majors role around.
Ryo Ishikawa – I bring him up since we are on the subject of talking about Japanese players. Ishikawa took a different path than Matsuyama, who went to college and turned pro after graduation. Ishikawa turned pro at the age of 16 after winning on the Japan Golf Tour at age 15. In 2009 he made a strong impression not only in Japan but worldwide first by winning the order of merit on the Japan Golf Tour but playing in the Presidents Cup at just 18 years old. He had a 3-2 record in the matches, including a 2 & 1 singles victory over Kenny Perry. He finally was granted a special temporary membership on the PGA Tour when he finished T-4th at the 2011 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He made good progress but in 2014 started suffering from back pains. Over the next couple of years things got worst and at the 2016 Pebble Beach pro-am withdrew and was diagnosed with lumber discopahty. He rested and didn’t touch a golf club for three months and then started to rehab. He tried to return in July at the Japan PGA Championship but still had some minor discomfort so he didn’t play for seven more weeks. He came back at the RIZAP KBC Augusta event in Japan and won it by five shots. In his next two starts in Japan he was 2nd and 3rd and on his first PGA Tour start was T-10th at the CIMB Classic. He missed the cut in Las Vegas and was T-50th at the OHL Classic, but bounced back to finish 6th at the Golf Nippon Series. Ishikawa will have 17 more starts on the PGA Tour under a medical extension and we should see him at the Sony Open, watch for him to play well. Despite being only 25 he has played on the PGA Tour for nine years now and is a veteran. But more importantly he is healthy again and a person to watch starting next month.
Pat Perez – Another that suffered from injuries in 2016 but is fighting back In his 15th year on Tour, he tore his right labrum and had to have it surgically repaired. For Perez that put him in a weird situation. He made over $18.5 million in his PGA Tour career, which is a lot of money. In 376 starts he only won once at the Bob Hope in 2009 and was rarely in contention. Lot’s of reasons why but the bottom line was that he enjoyed spending the money instead of practicing and was content with earning his million a year and then spending time at home. But when he got hurt last year and knew he needed surgery there was a lot of anxious moments. The time off gave him months to think about his career and to have a better mind sense when he started playing again. In the past on Sunday’s when he got in contention he had too many things on his mind and didn’t play well. He took to heart some thoughts from Steve Elkington who said he needed to think of just one thing, beating everybody else and make birdies. He made a return at the CIMB Classic finishing T-33rd. The next week was better when he was T-7th at the Shriners Hospitals for Children. The next week at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba he found himself in contention going into the final round. On Sunday he remembered Elkington’s thoughts and made birdie on five of his first 8 holes. On his final ten holes he had enough of a lead to shot one over and still win by two. The victory is turning into a big confidence boast for him and with the taste of victory, at 40 he wants more. So I would look at him to possibly win again on the coming up west coast swing, who knows maybe at Kapalua which he finished T-10th in his only start in 2010. After that in the Sony Open he has four top-tens and at the CareerBuilders he won back in 2008.
Cameron Smith – Of all the fresh faces on the PGA Tour I expect more from Smith than anyone else. He has shown us great potential finishing T-4th at the U.S. Open (2015) and losing a playoff to Jordan Spieth at the Australian Open. He wasn’t very impressive in his first year on the PGA Tour finishing 157th in the FedEx Cup standings, but I can see improvement. Now that he has a year under his belt this 23 year-old Australian should settle down and do some wonderful things. Look for him to do well early at the Sony Open and Pebble Beach. You never know if he gets himself in a major he may contend on Sunday afternoon.
Cody Gribble – One of the players that benefited from the cancellation of the Web.Com Tour Championship, he finished T-5th at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship and with that got the 40th of 50 spots onto the PGA Tour. Going into that event he had missed his previous four Web.Com Tour cuts so the Children’s place was big. With his PGA Tour card he went off to Napa and finished T-8th at the Safeway Open. After a week off he teed off at the Sanderson Farms Championship and was way down the leaderboard after shooting 73 in the first round. But he bounced back to should 63-67-65 for a four shot victory. The key for Gribble and what we need to watch in 2017 is his putting. At the Sanderson he was 1st in Strokes Gained putting, putting average and overall putting. He made 61 of 65 putts inside ten feet so that is the key to his game. Gribble was born and raised in Texas and does great on Bent, so don’t expect much from him until after the Florida swing in March.
Brendan Steele – Won the Safeway Open, after birdieing his last three holes in Sunday’s final round to post a 7-under 65 and claim his second career PGA Tour win. Steele is one of those players that does well in events that draw poor fields and have opposite end events like the Barracuda Championship. He is a California kid that does well on the west coast swing so look for him to do well. If there has been a weakness in his game it’s his putting, so if he can do well with the flat stick early he will have some really good finishes in 2017. He is one of your go to picks for DraftKings, since he does make a lot of birdies.
Mackenzie Hughes – 25 year old Canadian had a successful run on the Web.Com Tour winning once and finishing 17th on the money list. He struggled for most of the year but when he finished T-5th in the LECOM Health Challenge in July moved up from 140th to 84th on the money list. A month later he secured his PGA Tour card with a win at the Price Cutter Charity Championship. He birdied the 72nd hole for a one shot win. He had another top-ten with a T-5th at the Albertsons Boise Open and came out on the PGA Tour with a 28th priority ranking. He played solid golf at the Safeway Open finishing T-13th and then T26th at the Sanderson Farms Championship. He struggled a bit in Las Vegas and missed the cut in Mexico. Before the Sanderson Farms Hughes got married and since the wedding was planned before he got his PGA Tour card they just went to these tournaments together. Going into the first round of the RSM Classic he wasn’t hitting it very well but found a thought on the driving range that he took to the course and shot 61. The key to Hughes game is putting, on the Web.Com Tour he was 17th in putting average and 26th in putts per round. That and his good play around the greens was the key for him winning the RSM Classic. He was 1st in strokes gained around the green and was 3rd in strokes gained putting. He also made his share of bombs, for the week he made six of 13 putts between 10 and 20 feet and holed 3 putts over 25 feet the longest being 31 feet on Saturday. Now the key for Hughes is to watch him, he could be a very good Draft Kings pick. Of course he won’t be 6,700 like he was at the RSM Classic, but anything under 7,500 and he is worth one of your six picks.
Jon Rahm – Got his PGA Tour card thanks to finishing T-2nd at the RBC Canadian Open and T-3rd at the Quicken Loans he has played ok and bares watching on the West Coast swing. Remember this, he was T-5th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. I would say that Glen Abbey is a bit like TPC Scottsdale, so watch him there, also I think he will have a good week at Pebble and Genesis Open (Riviera) if he gets a chance to play in those events.
Can go either direction with these guys:
Wesley Bryan – He came out the top player on the Web.Com Tour in 2016. But in his first four starts in the fall he wasn’t impressive his best finish being a T-41st at the Shriners Hospitals. Since winning for the third time on the Web.Com Tour at the Digital Ally Open back in August Bryan has sturggled. Maybe the easiness of getting his tour card but after finishing T-8th at the John Deere he’s missed four of seven cuts. Don’t expect much from him early on, wait for him to play well after the Florida swing.
Grayson Murray – He was 2nd on the priority list on the PGA Tour and after winning the last Web.Com tour event at the Nationwide Children’s we thought he was going to be hot. But in three starts he missed the cut at Safeway and Las Vegas, finishing T-8th at the Sanderson Farms. Murray is one of those hot and cold type of players. Just like he did on the Web.Com Tour he missed the cut in three straight events and then finished T-2nd at the Digital Ally Open. So he will be a very hard player to judge since there is no rhyme or reason on him playing good or bad.
Bryson DeChambeau – Another disappointment, after winning the DAP Championship to get himself on the PGA Tour, he has only finished two events in seven starts. I never thought about it till I saw him putting side saddle at the Franklin Templeton Shootout that he is a very smart guy that likes to tinker and basically that doesn’t give us much confidence. Check back with me when the tour goes to Florida, I could be more favorable on him.
Just don’t see it happening in 2017
Rod Pampling – He has had a wild ride during the 14 years he has played on the PGA Tour. He may have three wins, the last coming in Las Vegas in October but it’s been a slug for him the last seven years as he only has finished in the top-125 twice in that time period. At 47 years old he is just looking to get ready for the Champions Tour. So when you see his name in DraftKing boards with a price under 7,000 listen to the warning, he probably won’t be worth the pick. He will probably miss more cuts than he makes in the upcoming year and in getting points for Draftkings he doesn’t make many eagles and birdies.