Josh Culp

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Web Rankings: Grading The 25

Thursday, September 13, 2018

As the PGA TOUR takes a breather before the FedExCup Playoffs finale, I wanted to prepare for the 2018-19 season since we don't get much of an offseason in golf. 

Starting with last year, I decided to grade the Tour graduates to see who gamers should be focusing on for the upcoming season. 

If you want to review last year's rankings you can go read those here: Grading The 25 (2017) or Grading The Finals 25 (2017)

The main idea here is to look at a simple stat like strokes gained versus the field and see who fared best during the 2018 calendar year. This generally tells us who the real deal is and who just got lucky with a few top-heavy finishes. 

Adding to the equation, I include age so we know which golfers may be young and still looking to peak and which golfers are on the back-end of their careers. 

There are still two Tour Finals events remaining so I will provide an update when those conclude and we have 25 more graduates to grade out. 

Let's see who might be in line for a big 2018-19 season on the PGA TOUR... 

#1 Sungjae Im

2018 Strokes Gained Rank: 1
Age: 20

Easily gained the most strokes of anyone on the Tour this season and he hasn't even reached legal drinking age in the States. The Korean calls Nine Bridges his home course so look out for him early in the season as I'm sure he'll find a way to crack that field (The CJ CUP). Currently would be in the field as the third-ranked Korean in the OWGR. I'd imagine a sponsor's invite wouldn't be tough to find if that changes. The youngster posted 14 top 25s in 24 starts on the Web circuit, including FIVE podium finishes. This really could be a superstar in the making. 

#2 Sam Burns
2018 Strokes Gained Rank: 3
Age: 22

Turned pro early out of LSU as he knew his game was ready for the big stage. He proved that with three top 25s in 11 starts on the PGA TOUR and five top 10s in 16 starts on the Web Tour. That included a pair of third-place finishes, a runner-up finish, and a WIN. Made a huge statement at the Honda Classic when he posted a bogey-free 68 during the final round when paired with none other than Tiger Woods. The only potential problem is that he leans a lot on his putter. That isn't a huge problem when you consider he gained 10.5 strokes putting at the Valspar and 5.8 SGP at the Honda. Very similar to Beau Hossler in that regard. Needs to tidy up the tee-to-green play before he can be considered a steady contender. 

#3 Cameron Champ
2018 Strokes Gained Rank: 4
Age: 23

This masher led the Tour in driving distance (342 yards). That yielded a win and four other top 10s (just four missed cuts). His game is perfectly suited to dominate on the Wedge dot Com Tour but will he be able to bomb-and-gouge the PGA TOUR setups? Scrambling, in particular, is where I think the PGA TOUR becomes tougher for him. The evidence is not stacking up in his favor as he went just 1-for-6 on the big stage last year. He lost strokes approaching-the-green in all five of his ShotLink starts. His only Web win came in altitude. A world of upside but still needs a lot of polish. I think the best case scenario is a 2018 Keith Mitchell-like season for Champ but a more realistic scenario is probably a Brandon Hagy-like start to his career. Champ is someone I see being overhyped to start the season and I think he'll eventually live up to that hype. Will that happen this season or a few years down the road? 

#4 Sebastian Munoz
2018 Strokes Gained Rank: 2
Age: 25

The Colombian will be taking his second shot on the PGA TOUR. He was just 8-for-17 during his 2016-17 rookie campaign but there were signs of greater upside. Most notable was a three-event stretch that started with the 2017 St. Jude Classic. He co-led after R1 and R2 that week before fading over the weekend. Two starts later he was the solo leader after Rounds 1, 2, and 3 at The Greenbrier Classic. Munoz settled for T3 that week but we knew there was potential in there. That was on full display this season in the minor leagues, as he missed just five cuts in 21 starts and posted six top 10s along the way. Munoz is a much better putter, but I see a lot of similarities with Abraham Ancer here (struggles the first time trying on the PGA TOUR but then dominates the Web before returning with more confidence and experience). 

#5 Anders Albertson
2018 Strokes Gained Rank: 5
Age: 25

Albertson played alongside Ollie at Georgia Tech but it's taken him a few more years to jumpstart his career. His cuts-made ratio jumped from 35 percent to 56 percent and then up to 86 percent this season. For his sake, you hope he's a faster study up on the PGA TOUR. The Yellow Jacket product ranked 3rd on tour in putting average and 3rd in birdies per round. He's not the longest of hitters but that's not really needed during the fall portion of the schedule. He may be one to target out of the gate in DFS during the fall. 

#6 Kramer Hickok
2018 Strokes Gained Rank: 7
Age: 26

If Anders gets linked to Ollie then Hickok gets paired with Jordan Spieth. Hickok and Spieth played together at the University of Texas and they remained roommates for a bit, even after they graduated. Hickok is finally coming into his own with two wins on the Mackenzie Tour in 2017 and then posting five top 10s in 24 starts on the Tour this season. That includes a win during the second event of the Tour Finals. Hickok ranks 14th in driving accuracy but outside the top 50 in distance, GIR percentage, putting, and birdie average. It doesn't sound like that profile will translate to consistency on the big stage. However, he's proven to have that winning edge with three victories over the last two years. Look for him to contend in weak-field events this year and on courses where accuracy is at a premium. Unfortunately, for Hickok, those courses are few and far between on the PGA TOUR. 

#7 Carlos Ortiz
2018 Strokes Gained Rank: 8
Age: 27

Ortiz looked like a future superstar when he won three times during the 2014 Tour season and then went 20-for-30 during his rookie season on the PGA TOUR. Hit a wall during his sophomore campaign but he's 37-for-48 on the Tour over the last two seasons. That includes 19 top 25s. Grew up on poa annua greens and his PGA TOUR performances showcase that. His SG Putting on poa is more than a shot better per round when compared to bermuda while regular bentgrass is in between. I'd imagine that gap is closing as he has played more on various surfaces but I'd look for Ortiz to be comfortable on poa annua which is good news for anyone wanting to back him in the season opener in Napa.

#8 Wyndham Clark
2018 Strokes Gained Rank: 

This Oregon Duck brings a world of pedigree as he was one of the best college golfers before turning pro. The Denver native wasn't steady (10-for-22) but he finished 16th on the regular season money list, thanks to a four-pack of top 10s, two of them being podium finishes. Clark ranks 11th in driving distance, 19th in putting, and 22nd in birdies per round. That compares very similarly to fellow Duck, Aaron Wise who ranked 14th, 33rd, and 14th in those three stats in 2017. For Clark's rookie season I'd expect some growing pains as he adjusts to the big stage but I'd expect his good weeks to be really good. 

#9 Roberto Castro
2018 Strokes Gained Rank: 11
Age: 33

He's now a three-time Tour graduate (2011, 2015, 2018). The 33-year-old already has 153 career PGA TOUR starts under his belt and he's made the cut in 60 percent of those. A pretty solid ratio. Castro has made it all the way to East Lake on two occasions but he's also missed the Playoffs in 3-of-6 seasons. Looking at his past ShotLink performances, he has 13 starts where he's gained 5+ strokes on approach and five events where he's gained 5+ strokes putting. Castro is the perfect mold for a GPP golfer for DFS gamers. He makes it through the cut as a decent-enough clip but he also has weeks where he goes lights out and finds himself in the mix on Sunday. 

#10 Scott Langley
2018 Strokes Gained Rank: 

The straight-shooting lefty finished 122nd, 77th, and 127th in the FedExCup standings from 2013 to 2015. He's already proven he can hang around on the big stage and get himself in contention from time to time. Langley finished 73rd on the Web money list last season but vaulted up to 3rd this season with five top 10s (three podiums). Given his lack of length, you'll want to be selective in which events you draft him. Historically, he leans heavily on his short game and has done a lot of his damage on bermuda.  Should benefit relative to most of these graduates when it comes to knowledge of PGA TOUR courses. He's been around the block a time or two.

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Josh Culp joined Rotoworld in 2014. The DFS enthusiast from Iowa State can be found on Twitter @futureoffantasy.
Email :Josh Culp

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