Golf Draft Kit: 2018-19 Deep Dive

Golf Draft Kit: 2018-19 Deep Dive

This article is part of our Golf Draft Kit series.

Surely, hopefully, this will be the last fantasy-golf strategy article you read because … well … welcome to the bottom of the barrel, folks.

Just about everyone you'd want to consider for your fantasy play will be from one of three places: the top-125 of last season's FedEx Cup point standings, Nos. 126-150 because they have conditional status and get to play a lot of tournaments, or a new Web.com Tour graduate.

The golfers we'll discuss are none of those guys.

In the RotoWire auction league, our 14 teams draft nine golfers each for a total of 126, and we start a maximum of five per tournament. At the end of our draft, we are really struggling to find … Blayne Barber? (Yes, I draft him last year. He finished 166th in points, long after I had released him. The shame.)

Here, we will do a deep dive to find golfers who, for one reason or another, are outside the top-150 yet still exempt in some fashion for 2018-19. We'll order them roughly from best to worst. Or, more accurately, from worse to worst. But there are a couple caveats.

Joaquin Niemann

Here's the first caveat. It involves Priority Category No. 21, which states that if over the course of the season a non-member equals the number of points by the No. 125th-ranked golfer from the previous season, he gets a card for the next season. Niemann did that, so he has a card and he potentially will have a

Surely, hopefully, this will be the last fantasy-golf strategy article you read because … well … welcome to the bottom of the barrel, folks.

Just about everyone you'd want to consider for your fantasy play will be from one of three places: the top-125 of last season's FedEx Cup point standings, Nos. 126-150 because they have conditional status and get to play a lot of tournaments, or a new Web.com Tour graduate.

The golfers we'll discuss are none of those guys.

In the RotoWire auction league, our 14 teams draft nine golfers each for a total of 126, and we start a maximum of five per tournament. At the end of our draft, we are really struggling to find … Blayne Barber? (Yes, I draft him last year. He finished 166th in points, long after I had released him. The shame.)

Here, we will do a deep dive to find golfers who, for one reason or another, are outside the top-150 yet still exempt in some fashion for 2018-19. We'll order them roughly from best to worst. Or, more accurately, from worse to worst. But there are a couple caveats.

Joaquin Niemann

Here's the first caveat. It involves Priority Category No. 21, which states that if over the course of the season a non-member equals the number of points by the No. 125th-ranked golfer from the previous season, he gets a card for the next season. Niemann did that, so he has a card and he potentially will have a significant impact. The still-not-20-year-old Chilean sensation played 12 tournaments, 11 of them as a pro after missing the cut at the Masters, and notched four top-10s and six top-25s. Only 36 guys had more top-10s, and Niemann had the same number as Rickie Fowler, Francesco Molinari, Brandt Snedeker and Ian Poulter, among others. Let's talk stats: Niemann ranked second in greens in regulation, 12th in strokes gained: off the tee, fifth in strokes gained: approach and 15th in both strokes gained: tee to green and total. That, gamers, is the real deal. He needs to work on his putting, which was middle of the road, and his scrambling, which was horrible. Niemann earned a little over $1.2 million, which would've placed him 101st on the money list. But remember, he played only half a season. Double it and he'd have finished about 44th in earnings. And then if you think he can get better in his first full season on Tour, then maybe we're talking about top-30 and the Tour Championship for Niemann.

Bill Haas

We highlight Haas here, even though he likely will play out of the Past Champions category, which is detailed below. He's also 34th in career earnings, and there is a one-time exemption for being in the top-50. But Haas, 36, is probably far too young to consider using it. Haas finished 152nd in points, though surely would've been inside the top-150 and maybe even the top-125 had he not been involved in a car accident while in Los Angeles to play the Genesis Open back in February. He missed a month afterward, but still may be carrying the emotional trauma of a friend dying in the accident. Haas played in 25 events, made 14 cuts, had three top-25s and one top-10 – at the RBC Heritage about two months after the accident. He was also 14th at Colonial in May. Haas has not won since 2015 and will never regain the heights he had when winning the 2011 FedEx Cup playoffs. But as a barometer, he almost certainly will be drafted in the RotoWire auction, which goes 126 golfers deep.

Top-50 in World Rankings

This will not be decided till Jan. 1, as players in the top-50 at the end of the year qualify for all the majors and WGCs. All the players in this grouping are internationals and don't spend significant time on the PGA Tour, which of course limits their value. Right now, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Thorbjorn Olesen and Matthew Fitzpatrick are in the top-50 in the OWGR. Those of note who are outside but could climb in are Thomas Pieters (who was 154th in the FedEx Cup point standings based on gaining membership the previous season), Ross Fisher (185th), Haotong Li, Matt Wallace and Eddie Pepperell. Pieters surely has the most upside, but Olesen, Li, Wallace and Pepperell appear to be comers, and that's the order in which we would rank them. Aphibarnrat and Fitzpatrick have both been around for a few years with little to show for it, at least in the States. You may be wondering about Martin Kaymer, whose five-year exemption for winning the 2014 Players Championship doesn't expire till the end of 218-19. Such golfers still need to play in at least 15 tournaments or be limited to 12 the following season. Kaymer played in 11 this past season. He also was horrible, making only five cuts. The former No. 1 has lost his game but, at age 33, surely has a enough time to regain at least some of it. You'll have to wait and see here.

2016-17 Tournament Champions

These guys won tournaments. They must be good, right? Well, not so fast. A few times a year, maybe more, guys come out of the blue to have a perfect week, usually in a lesser event, and it's life-changing. All of these guys listed here who won during the 2016-17 season, and we're about to name a whopping eight of them, were so bad they couldn't crack the top-150 in 2017-18. That's what's known as "falling off the map." But they still have their two-year exemption for one more year. This time around, they will have to perform or it's back to the Web.com Tour, or worse.

Chris Stroud, 155th in points, won the Barracuda Championship
Hudson Swafford, 156th, CareerBuilder
Mackenzie Hughes, No. 160, RSM Classic
Wesley Bryan, 163rd, RBC Heritage
Jonas Blixt, 173rd, Zurich Classic (teamed with Cameron Smith)
D.A. Points, 176th, Puerto Rico Open
Cody Gribble, No. 182, Sanderson Farms
Rod Pampling, 203rd, Sanderson Farms

Blixt, Pampling, Points and Stroud have no value. The other four are between ages 27 and 30, so there's hope. Hughes was the only one of the quartet with so much as a top-10 this past season, and that was actually pretty impressive: an Ontario native tying for eighth at the Canadian Open. But it's not enough to take a flyer on him without seeing more early next season. Same goes for Bryant, Gribble and Swafford.

Medical Extensions

There are about two dozen guys who are or will be under medical extensions. Only a handful are even worth mentioning. You'll have to keep up with the news and check the status for Graham DeLaet, Luke Donald, Smylie Kaufman, John Senden, Sang Moon Bae, Jim Herman and Morgan Hoffmann. Herman was trying to make his way back in the Web.com Tour finals. DeLaet and Kaufman probably have the most upside, but it's too soon to gauge their health.

Past Champions

This is really toward the bottom of the pecking order. As such, there's not much to see here. Camilo Villegas? He's still only 36, but he was 193rd in points last season. He had one top-25, finishing 17th in the CIMB Classic. There's also J.J. Henry, Matt Every, Billy Hurley III, Boo Weekley and even Angel Cabrera, who of course will be in the Masters. There are many more current players with tournament wins but no need to mention them. Of course, anyone who has ever won a tournament is in the Past Champions category.

Potential Career Money List Exemptions

Here are some former stars. You can forget them right after you read this. Stuart Appleby, who is still about 2 ½ years from the Champions Tour, can play under the Past Champions category. Or, since he's 33rd all-time on the money list, could use his one-time exemption for being in the top-50 in career earnings. He may want to save that for next year, since he's unlikely to slip out of the top-50 in one year. Robert Allenby is very similar. He's roughly three years from the Champions Tour and is 40th in career earnings. Ernie Els just used his one-time exemption for being in the top-25 in career earnings. He could now use his top-50 exemption, which would carry him through next season. He will turn 50 in October 2019 and then presumably move to the Champions Tour.

Padraig Harrington played part of last season on medical extension, but it ended with regaining his card. He's about three years from the Champions Tour and is 47th in career earnings. He won't be in the top-50 at this time next year. For Harrington, it's use it or lose it. Mike Weir is 37th in career earnings. He's also about two years from the Champions Tour but is also currently still playing on a major medical. K.J. Choi used his top-25 career-money-list exemption last year, and just in the nick of time. Less than two years from the Champions Tour, he can now use his top-50. Retief Goosen used his top-50 this past season; he will turn 50 on Feb. 3, so he might be gone. Mind you, we don't yet know whether any of these guys will use these exemptions but, if they don't, they would still be able to play via the Past Champions category. All that said, they have zero value. But it's kind of fun from a historical perspective to research these guys and see where they stand. At least it was for us.

Life Members

Life members are those players who have won at least 20 tournaments and played at least 15 seasons. Davis Love III finished 210th in points, Vijay Singh was 226th and each fits into the category. But both spend most of their time on the Champions Tour.

Mr. Irrelevant

If you're wondering, how low the points list goes, it's 260 deep. The last name standing belongs to Trevor Immelman, who we'll see in the Masters and but hardly anywhere else. He's still only 38, but is transitioning to the broadcasting side

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years. He was named 2020 "DFS Writer of the Year" by the FSWA and was nominated for the same award in 2019.
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