It’s time for the 2016 fantasy golf rankings here at SportsClash. With the NFL season almost finished and a new year beginning, we’re switching gears to focus on other sports.
With the PGA Tour back in swing, fantasy owners might need a refresher. Golf is practically a year-round sport, but many focus on other sports when the PGA Championship is over and the NFL, NHL, and NBA begin regular season play. Others continue to follow until the Players Championship, but the holiday season is a time when golf is less prominent.
That’s a good thing. It gives golfers a chance to heal, both physically and mentally. Young guys improve their games. Old golfers repair their bodies. When the new season starts, the rankings never seem quite what they were when the season ended.
Top 10 Golfer Rankings
1. Jordan Spieth – Some things remains the same, though. Jordan Spieth is the youngest star coming off the biggest year. He’s now the #1 ranked golfer in the world. He had a 1st-place finish in two majors last year and was 1-shot out of 1st in the other two. Anyone who can win The Masters and the U.S. Open — two completely types of golf tournaments — in one year is a world class golfer. Spieth is the consensus #1 fantasy golfer for 2016.
Normally, I would shy away from a 22-year old rising star coming off his breakout year. PGA Golf is a brutal sport for those dealing with expectations, especially when the star is in his early twenties. Jordan Spieth is a different kind of player. Through his 2015 season, Jordan Spieth seemed to keep a good focus and to maintain his sense of reality. I don’t see this kid going out and enjoying his celebrity the way others would, partying or dating celebrity women. In short, I don’t see the kind of distractions which might derail a young golfer. If you have the 1st pick, take Spieth.
2. Rory McIlroy – Speaking of which, Rory McIlroy appears set-up for a bounceback year. McIlroy had a sub-standard 2015 season, but plenty of excuses exist for that year. He dealt with a significant ankle injury last year and is said to be fully healthy. McIlroy also dealt with a high-profile celebrity breakup, in this case with tennis star Caroline “Sunshine” Wozniacki. While I must censure Rory McIlroy for ending his engagement with a text message, I’ll say that the lack of distractions should help his game.
Better yet, Rory McIlroy is 26 and coming into his prime years. He has the tools. He’s gained experience and perspective. It’s time for the phenom from Scotland to return to a dominant role in the PGA.
3. Jason Day – If I had the #3 pick in a fantasy golf draft, I would not be displeased. Jason Day might be on the verge of something great. After Jason Day got his vertigo problem out of the way, he was the best golfer on the tour in 2015. For those unaware, Jason Day mysteriously collapsed on the 2nd day of the U.S. Open. That was proven to be vertigo. When he got the condition under control, Jason Day was as good as anyone on the tour — maybe the best.
He collected his first major late in the year. Prior to the PGA Champion, Jason Day won a playoff to seize the the RBC Canadian Open. Then he won the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. He followed that up with wins at the The Barclays and the BMW Championship, which temporarily gave him possession of the World Number 1 ranking. Eventually, Jordan Spieth regained the number one spot and finished the year there, but a good case can be made that no one is better-position than Jason Day to compete in 2016. He is 27 and should only be in his prime.
4. Dustin Johnson – Dustin Johnson is one of those players who is infuriating for his fans to watch (in majors), because he finds ways to lose when it seems like he’s got control. That matters only a little in fantasy golf, because Dustin Johnson is also one of the few players who is consistently near the top of the leaderboard. With the long drives and a variety of shots, no one has a bigger repertoire than Dustin Johnson at the moment.
It’s the consistently which has Johnson this high. He posted a career high eleven Top 10 finishes in 2015. At 31, he has a little more seasoning (and thus a little lower upside) than the golfers ahead of him on this list. He’s still young enough to win majors.
5. Justin Rose – This is where the rankings get a little dicey. Someone holding the 5th pick is going to have to choose between golfers in their mid-to-late 30s, or they’re going to have to take a chance on the 23 year old Hideki Matsuyama. If it were me, I would take my chances that the more established players can hold it together one more year. At 35 years old, it’s my guess that Justin Rose is the best of the bunch. He sits at the world #7 position, below Bubba Watson, so you might prefer to draft Watson here. The reason I choose Justin Rose is he plays in more tournaments than Bubba Watson and that is huge in fantasy golf.
Even better, Justin Rose is coming off his career high in Top 10 finishes (8). That provides a certain level of consistency that you need from a 1st round draft pick. Rose is two years removed from his only major tournament victory, but that means his numbers are a product of steadier workload and performance level. Justin Rose’s putter can sometimes abandon him, so I could see why another fantasy owner might go in another direction. I prefer the consistency.
6. Bubba Watson – Bubba Watson is the World #4 golfer at the moment. With 2 of the last 4 green jackets from the Masters, Bubba Watson is always a threat to win a Masters Tournament. That particular tournament is the one which lends itself to the most consistency — or better put, it’s the one easiest to repeat at, because it is played at the same course each year. That gives Watson a natural advantage over some competitors.
The reason I put Bubba Watson down a spot or two is he’s now 36 and his prime could end at any moment. Another product of that age is he plays in fewer tournaments than some of the golfers higher up this list — 5 fewer than Justin Rose over the past 2 years. Also, he has no major wins besides the Masters, so he is a bit limited in his upside potential. Those limitations are still far better than you can say about most other golfers on this list. I would be happy to take my chances with Bubba Watson, but he’ll be 37 by the end of the 2016 PGA Season and 37 year old golfers can look awfully old awfully quick.
7. Hideki Matsuyama – Hideki Matsuyama can match all the young brand name players right now tool-for-tool. He’s got everything he needs; Matsuyama only needs to put those tools together. Just because Matsuyama did not notch a victory in 2015, do not assume he regressed. He actually won nearly $1 million more than he did in 2014, despite not having the cash from the 2014 Memorial Tournament victory. Matsuyama had a 5th place finish in the 2015 Masters Tournament, which propelled him into the mainstream public consciousness at age 23.
I place Hideki Matsuyama here because you have to “go young” at a point. When the option is drafting a 23-year old or drafting someone who’ll be 40 by the end of the year, I chose the youth movement. Unless you think Hideki Matsuyama has some psychological or constitutional hang-up about winning tournaments, you have to assume the wins will come. At 23, it’s impossible to have enough information about a Matsuyama’s psychological traits — in other words, it’s not like he’s Sergio Garcia. Draft the young golfer with upside here.
8. Zach Johnson – That being said, Zach Johnson is still a contender at major tournaments at the age of 39. Zach Johnson’s win at the Open Championship was impressive, to say the least. It was his first major title in 8 years, since the 2007 Masters. The two majors are certain to bookend a nice career for the Iowa-born golfer. Still, it’s hard to predict he’s got another major victory in him when he’ll be 40 in February. We see what age has done to Tiger Woods, as well as a ton of other legendary golfers. View the Open Championship as an outlier. Placing Zach Johnson at #8 is high enough, considering he’s the #12 ranked golfer in the world right now.
9. Rickie Fowler – If you look at the world rankings, you might place Rickie Fowler (#5) further up the fantasy golf projections. The 26-year old Fowler has played in tons of tournaments (52) over the course of the last two years and he’s been remarkably consistant. In fantasy terms, a good case could be made that Rickie Fowler should be significantly further up this list. The reason he’s down at #10 is Fowler has had struggles on Sunday and he’s yet to break through for a major victory. Rickie Fowler is a 1st round talent who should provide value and reliability at the bottom half of the round.
10. Patrick Reed – Patrick Reed is the 10th-ranked player in the PGA Rankings and he’s my 10th-ranked golfer on this list. The 25-year old Patrick Reed tied for the most cuts made in 2015 with 25, so he brings consistency. At only 25 and having 3 full years on the tour, Reed should be ready to build on that consistency and begin to compete on the weekends at majors. If you play in a 10-team league and the Fowler/Reed combo gets to you, you could do a lot worse than drafting two players in their mid-20s who have shown tremendous consistency recently. Because bigger names are likely to be drafted ahead of them, I could see that scenario happen. These are the 5th- and 10th-rated players in the world…right now.
Next 10 Fantasy Golfers
11. Henrik Stenson – Stenson is the #6 PGA player at the moment, but he’s about to be 40. He did average the most money among players with no wins, so the Swedish golfer should continue with strong play one more year.
12. Matt Kuchar – Matt Kuchar made 24 cuts, but failed to win a tournament for the first time in 5 seasons. He’s 37 and could see dropoff, but has been a 1st round value for several years.
13. Robert Streb – Robert Streb tied for the lead in made cuts (25) and he had the most red numbers (74). At 28, he is old enough to have figured out the tour and young enough to continue improving. Robert Streb sits in the sweet-spot of his career.
14. Brooks Koepka – The 25-year old Koepka has power, putting, and precision. He’s already the 14th-rated player. I can see him edging up a few more spots. As a player with huge talent in his mid-20s, I could see some owners drafting him a bit higher.
15. Paul Casey – Paul Casey had a career high eight Top 10 finishes in 2015. Most of those finishes were on the US Tour. He also is committed to playing a schedule of 20+ tournaments in 2016. His age (38) keeps him this far down the board.
16. Justin Thomas – We get to the point of the draft where you start to focus on a few high upside players, knowing you can add solid veterans later. Justin Thomas is a 22-year old phenom coming off his first full season. He already has seven Top 10 finishes and fifteen total Top 25 finishes. While he could slump in his second full year, Justin Thomas is one of those rising stars who could pay off huge. Skip over Thomas if you prefer more established, reliable picks.
17. J.B. Holmes – J.B. Holmes has had his difficult moments in the past few years. He’s been remarkably consistent over the past two PGA tour seasons, with 39 of 49 cuts made and an average of 24.5 tournaments played in that time. He’s the #24 ranked player in the world, so the #18 ranking might be a little high. J.B. Holmes has had slumps in the past, but he’s also had 2 wins, 2 second place finishes, and 9 overall Top 5 finishes in the past two years. In the past, he’s been fast-or-famine, but JB Holmes is 33, has found God, and could be ready to be a more consistent player.
18. Jimmy Walker – Jimmy Walker has shown consistency in recent years. Walker is one of those late bloomers who used to be a West-Coast and autumn players, but has shown more versatility in the past few seasons. Jimmy Walker is one of those golfers you should be able to grab later. You know your rival owners better than I do, so you decide how long you can wait.
19. Jim Furyk – Like Jim Furyk in real life, the fantasy Jim Furyk is an overlooked master. The 40-year old is listed down here because a wrist injury might keep him out until February, but he is the 9th-rated golfer at the moment. If you can get him with the 20th pick, it’s a steal.
20. Brandt Snedeker – Brandt Snedeker’s #34 ranking is a product of the hip injury he battled last year. Snedeker has had a series of injury issues, so some owners won’t want to take the risk. He’s also shown the ability to bounce back to have nice years after an injury derails a season, so Snedeker has shown he has Top 20 talent. Again, add more reliable, steady performers later, if you draft Snedeker here. What you’re wanting with picks in this part of the draft and players with the toolset to post high totals, if everything is right.
2016 Fantasy Golf Rankings
Hunter Mahan and Adam Scott had legitimate reasons their 2015 campaigns were disappointing. Kevin Kisner and Branden Grace are value picks, according to their tour rankings. Drafting later, you can add these players in the hopes of a bounceback year. I’ll continue to add to this list in the days and weeks to come. It can serve as a cheat sheet for the 2016 PGA Fantasy Season right now. Later, it should reflect a pick list of projections for daily fantasy golf on DraftKings. That’s another beast entirely, because of the difficulty of predicting weekly scores in fantasy golf.