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Opinion & Analysis

The Real Top 10: PGA Tour Power Rankings

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PGA Tour player performance is something that fans and media alike are always measuring and sharing their opinions about. When these matters are discussed between friends, enemies, co-workers, spouses, in-laws – there is always some disagreement. Some people like to measure the entire season’s performance when evaluating a golfer, and some employ the “What have you done for me lately?” school of thought. I always thought there was something to be said for both sides.

I wanted to find a way that I can measure a Tour player’s performance over the course of a season, but also keep in mind how hot (or cold) a player is to help me predict what they may (or may not) do in the future. The FedExCup standings does a good  job of tracking a player’s season, but let’s look at it this way: if you only played in two PGA Tour tournaments and won them, you would have 1,000 FedEx Cup points (assuming one of them wasn’t a major). With those numbers at playoff time, you could play in every other tournament, not make a cut, and be in the top 30 in the FedEx cup standings! What I’m telling you is that you can’t judge a golfer by those standings alone.

So I invented a system that takes those FedExCup standings, puts them through a series of number crunches and put together my own Power Ranking to give you a mix of how good these players actually are, meshing together their season performance and recent performance in an effort to quell the arguments between you and your loved (or not so loved) ones.

Let’s take a look at who owns the top ten spots going into the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

1. Brandt Snedeker

Brandt Snedeker

It’s no surprise that the guy who has three top-3s to start the 2013 season is No. 1 on this list. Starting off his year with a third place finish at The Hyundai Tournament of Champions and putting together back-to-back second place finishes these last two weeks, Sneds is showing us that he wants to be the first person ever to defend their FedEx Cup title.

2. Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson

With a dominating performance at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, highlighted by his first round performance where he had a chance of shooting a 59 on TOUR, this west coast swing is where Phil does damage. You have to believe after the week he’s had, and going up to Pebble Beach this week to a tournament that he won last year, he will be the favorite to win.

3. Brian Gay

Brian Gay

With a win at the Humana Challenge and a respectable T24 finish at the Phoenix Open, Gay is putting together a great start to his season. The 41-year-old tends to have good early season form shown, which is confusing because he has not put himself in the field this week at Pebble, a tournament he finished T20 at last year.

4. Russell Henley

Russel Henly

You’ve got to be impressed with a 23 year-old that wins the first full-field tournament of the year, which was also his first start as a PGA Tour rookie. He has made the cut in all three of his starts this season, where he has only shot one round over par. There is a host of young talent on tour right now, and Henly is poised to show us that he can compete with the best.

5. Charles Howell III

Charles Howell III

Howell already has three top-10 finishes in 2013, including a playoff loss to Brian Gay at the Humana Challenge. He’s taking a week off this week after playing four consecutive weeks, but look for him on the front page of leader boards in the tournaments to come.

6. Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson

DJ came out with guns blazing in 2013, taking home a trophy in the winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions. We know what Johnson can do off of the tee, but the improvement in his short game has been scary good over the past years, increasing his rank in Strokes Gained-Putting from 171st in 2011, to 51st last year. With this much of a short game improvement, look for him at the top of the leader board this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which he won in 2009 and 2010.

7. Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson

Bubba put together a good start to his season, finishing T4 the Tournament of Champions and solo 15th at the Phoenix Open. He recent years, the 2012 Masters champ has really turned himself into an all-around player, instead of just being known for his long ball. He hasn’t shot a round over par yet this season, and finished off the Phoenix Open with a bogey free round of 7-under 64.

8. Ryan Palmer

Ryan Palmer

Ryan Palmer put together a hot start to his 2013 campaign, his best start since 2010, picking up two top-10s in his first three events. Most recently, he notched a solo 5th place finish this past week in Phoenix. He has been hitting the ball beautifully, and he will be looking to keep this hot start going this week at Pebble Beach, a tournament where he finished T29 last year.

9. Robert Garrigus

Robert Garrigus

Garrigus has had an absolutely sensational start to his year by finishing T16, T6, and T11 in his three starts so far. Robert has been long off the tee, averaging over 306 yards, and has hit almost 78 percent of greens in regulation. That is going to be a killer combination this week if he can keep up this stellar ball striking trend, going to a tournament where he finished T20 last year.

10. Nick Watney

Nick Watney

The Nike newcomer rounds out the top 10 this week by way of a T13 finish in Kapalua, along with a T4 at the Farmers Insurance Open. It seems that Nick has taken a liking to his new equipment, because he has been striking the ball wonderfully to start off the year. Watney will be in the field for the Pro-Am as he has been his entire career, where he hasn’t missed a cut since 2004. Over that span, he has also managed to pick up two top-10s. Expect more of the same this year.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

 

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Nick is a true New Englander with a love for Boston sports, and carries a deep passion for golf and hockey. He played hockey collegiately, but has since focused mainly on golf. When Nick isn't working on his swing, you can find him sharing his sports opinions, or earning a living as chemist.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Marc Kilgore

    Feb 7, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    What the heck is this list? It makes no sense. These are not all guys playing at Pebble Beach. Tiger is not on the list. It’s not April 1st.
    Confused?

  2. Bobby Jones

    Feb 6, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Wish I could have my 60 seconds back from reading this “Real Top 10” list.

  3. Anthony Kelley

    Feb 6, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Guys….Chill out. I’m sure this list is based on who is in the “top ten spots going into the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am”. Quoting that from the statement above, assuming that it is based on active players on the field. Obviously if Tiger was playing, he would be part of this list but he’s not playing.

  4. Alex Lackner

    Feb 6, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Bad morals or not, tiger should be on this list

  5. J

    Feb 5, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    I don’t even like Tiger Woods, he’s a rotten example to anyone with morals or manners… But you make a top 10 guys of the year so far and he’s left off… And he won? Garrigus? Not even a top 5… Really? Wow man…rethink your writing skills…that’s seriously biased.

    • Blanco

      Feb 6, 2013 at 10:57 pm

      Are people genuinely convinced they know “the real Tiger Woods,” based on 20 years of IMG branding followed by three years of relentless scandal gossip?

      “Tiger” is a world-class athlete and competitor to his fans, and the embodiment of cold immorality to his critics. I doubt anyone on Golfwrx knows a thing about Eldrick Woods the human being and father.

      All I know is that he’s an amazing golfer, most worthy of this list, and an inherently flawed individual, just like you and I.

      • J

        Feb 7, 2013 at 11:55 pm

        Convinced they know the real Tiger Woods? Nope… And mistakes are mistakes… A habit is not a mistake. He should have been on this list. Sill the top golfer in the world.

  6. Mateo

    Feb 5, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    ummmmmmmmmm Tiger Woods???
    This list is a joke.

  7. mlamb

    Feb 5, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Umm … Tiger? He has a win.

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Redkacheek’s DFS Rundown: 2018 CJ Cup

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Wow, what a crazy start to this season! Not only has the cheat sheet and slack chat plays over at the Fantasy Golf Bag been on complete fire, but the new golf betting model has now hit on two outrights and one FRL in back-to-back weeks! We get a much better field this week so definitely plan to keep this heater going here at the CJ Cup this week. Brooks Koepka will be teeing it up for the first time since being named the 2018 POY, along with guys such as Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Paul Casey, Billy Horschel, and our new favorite Sungjae Im. As you can see, this will be a fairly exciting event for a setup as similar as last week’s tournament.

Let’s go ahead and take a look at this course and see if we can pinpoint some key stats to take us to another Big GPP win or at least a couple good choices for an outright win.

The CJ Cup will be played at the Club at Nine Bridges, a 7,196 yard par-72 golf course in South Korea. Although this may appear like a similar course to TPC Kuala Lumpur last week, this one will play quite significantly tougher. As you can see below, in 2017 there were more bogeys than birdies for the week which doesn’t happen much outside of majors. Justin Thomas won last year’s event after shooting 63 in the first round but failed to break 70 the following three days. JT finished at nine under, which tied Marc Leishman, who coincidentally won this last weekend (2019 Fall Swing narrative). So why so tough if it appears so short? Let’s take a look.

So first off, let’s get this out of the way first. These greens are brutal. No joke; these greens were the single most difficult greens to putt on all of last year. Everything from one-putt percentage to 3-putt avoidance, these ranked the No. 1 most difficult on Tour all year. But here’s the problem: We all know putting is the single most variable stat, so using SG:P will tend to lead to a very disappointing pool of players. For example, coming into last year the players ranked Top 10 in SG:P finished 11-33-47-40-28-64-36-26-71-36, respectively. There is a still a stat that helped fine-tune player pools last year that I will recommend this year: my first key stat to consider this week is 3-putt avoidance.

The next section here I will just briefly touch on the driving accuracy and GIR percentage for this course. It is very average for the PGA Tour…that is really all you need to know. Driving accuracy ranked 48th and GIR percentage ranked 38th in 2017. This course is not difficult tee-to-green, plain and simple. I will certainly add the usual SG:T2G this week along with GIR percentage, but this course will favor most guys this week.

So besides putting, why are these scores so poor considering the appearance of an easy course? Well besides putting on these greens, scrambling here is brutal. Scrambling also ranked No. 1 most difficult here last year but again, this is a stat that is extremely tough to see useful trends. I will, however, encourage you to use SG:ARG to help narrow down your player pool more efficiently.

Remember that this segment of the Fall Swing will not yield strokes-gained data, so we must only utilize the traditional stats the PGA Tour keeps. On top of all the micro-scoring stats mentioned above, let’s take a closer look at this course from a macro level. This will be fairly straightforward when building your model. The par 4s here are extremely difficult, so add SG:P4 Scoring to your research (par 3 scoring is also very difficult but sample sizes are usually too small to include each week). Par 5 scoring was difficult as well but there is a better stat we can use than the P4 scoring mentioned above. The final stat we will be using is simply bogey avoidance. This will do a fantastic job of incorporating T2G, scrambling and putting into our model/research.

Overall this course is really an amazing layout but will pose a difficult task for the players. Just like last week, I encourage you to ease into the season by playing light and also primarily playing GPPs.

With all that out of the way, let’s get into my core plays for this week…

Justin Thomas (DK $11,600)

Justin Thomas finally makes the core writeup. After a mediocre finish last week (5th place), he comes to Nine Bridges as the defending champion. Ironically, he beat out Marc Leishman, last week’s winner, in a playoff last year and I think he is going to be the guy to pay up for over $10k. JT won both CIMB Classic and The CJ Cup last year, and I would be very surprised if he doesn’t leave this leg of the Fall Swing (Asia) without a win. There’s a lot going for him outside of his recent form and course history (if that wasn’t enough), he ranks first in both SG:T2G and SG:APP, second in par 4 scoring, eighth in bogey avoidance and finally, surprisingly, 11th in 3-putt avoidance. If you are building only a few lineups this week, I think JT should be in around two-thirds of them.

Byeong-Hun An (DK $8,700)

Mr. Ben An makes the list again! Byeong-Hun An received a lot of praise from both Jacob and myself on the FGB Podcast last week and he did not disappoint with a 13th place finish, and really a strong chance to win going into the weekend. As part of a common theme you will see here, Ben An is the kind of consistent ball-striker to rely on each and every week. On the PGA Tour in the last 50 rounds, he ranks third along with a strong ranking in bogey avoidance (third) and GIR percentage (also third). He did play this event last year, finishing 11th at 4-under par, and if it weren’t for a final round 73 he had a realistic chance for the win! The price on Ben An is getting a little steep but I think we can still get some value out of it this week.

Kyle Stanley (DK $8,200)

Kyle Stanley should be considered a core play almost every week he is under $9K on DraftKings. One of the most elite ball strikers on Tour, ranking ninth in SG:T2G, 11th in SG:APP, sixth in GIR percentage and 14th in par 4 scoring, he sets up for another solid top 20. Last week Kyle finished 13th in Kuala Lumpur and now comes to Nine Bridges where he ended the tournament in 19th place last year. Kyle tends to be very “mediocre” so upside for a top 3 always seems to come sparingly during the season, but you still cannot ignore his skills at this price.

Charles Howell III (DK $7,700)

Charles Howell III is a lock for me this week. Coming off a strong showing last week (T5) but also an 11th-place finish at this event last year, he grades out as one of the strongest values this week at only $7,700. CH3 hadn’t played on the PGA Tour for over a month before appearing at Kuala Lumpur, causing him to fly well under the radar on his way to a solid top five finish. Always known as a superb ball-striker, Howell actually rates out 16th in bogey avoidance and 10th in 3-putt avoidance, both key stats for this golf course. Additionally, CH3 ranks inside the top 20 of both par 4 scoring and GIR percentage. In a no-cut event on a difficult ARG golf course, count on CH3 to gain enough placement points to pay off this solid price tag.

Ian Poulter (DK $7,600)

Ian Poulter may be extremely sneaky this week. We haven’t seen him since the Ryder Cup and most people that play DFS have severe recency bias. Poulter is a grinder, and considering the winning score should only be around 12-under par with lots of opportunities for bogeys, he should keep the wheels on all four days and have a chance on Sunday. One of the most surprising stats for me in my research on Poulter is that he ranks first in 3-putt avoidance, along with some impressive tee-to-green stats where he ranks inside the top 25 of all of my key stats mentioned above. Why is the 3-putt avoidance stat so important? As I noted in the course preview, these were the single most difficult greens to putt on last year with the worst 3-putt percentage. Outside of the key stats, it does seem like this course fits his eye as he finished 15th here last year. Ian Poulter will be another core play but I think he may come in quite under owned from where he probably should.

Joel Dahmen (DK $6,900)

Chalk Dahmen week is upon us and I am going to bite. Dahmen has been a DFS darling this year and last week was no different. Dahmen ended up finishing 26th which was largely due to a poor final round 71, which dropped him 11 spots. Even with that poor finish he was able to pay off his sub-$7K price tag, which is where we find him again this week. Dahmen ranks top 10 in this field in several key stats, including: SG:T2G, SG:APP, and bogey avoidance. If you need some salary savings but unsure about anyone under $7K, Dahmen should be your first look this week.

Also consider

Brooks Koepka
Jason Day
Marc Leishman
Paul Casey
Ryan Moore
Sungjae Im
Kevin Tway

Good luck this week everyone!

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