Top 150 Golfers for 2021: Part 4

Josh Culp
·15 min read

The show goes on with this being part four of this six-part series. I am diving into the top 150 golfers to target in 2021 fantasy golf leagues.

If you missed the first three sections then you can find them here:

PART ONE (126th to 150th)

PART TWO (101st to 125th)

PART THREE (76th to 100th)

As a reminder, here are the underlying stats that are being used:

6-Month Performance = Strokes Gained per Round during all worldwide events over the last six months. This is a good guide to see what golfers were trending well to end the year, after the mid-season restart.

2-Year Performance = Strokes Gained per Round during all worldwide events since 2019. This is how you can see a golfer's long-term baseline. A good chunk of golfers will gravitate back toward this number while a handful will make big moves in either direction that actually stick.

Projected 2021 Earnings = An estimate of PGA TOUR earnings during the 2020-21 season, excluding any money collected during the fall schedule.

75. Denny McCarthy

6-Month SG Rank: 74
2-Year SG Rank: 76
Projected 2021 Earnings: $973095

Notes: He's improved in each of his first three seasons on TOUR. McCarthy finished 149th in the FedExCup race during his 2018 rookie campaign, improved to 111th in 2019, and was 73rd last season. Putting remains the strength of his game (1st in strokes gained putting each of the last two seasons) but there were also stretches last season where he was peppering greens at a high clip. Being the best putter in the world can make up for a lot of other ball-striking blemishes.

74. Matt Wallace

6-Month SG Rank: 39
2-Year SG Rank: 52
Projected 2021 Earnings: $987415

Notes: He deserves to be drafted higher but the volume of starts remains the issue. The Englishman pegged it in 10 European Tour events last season. That will limit the amount of PGA TOUR starts which puts a cap on his overall upside. A great option depending on the format but in a lot of leagues he'll frustrate you by the number of weeks he's forced to sit idle on the bench.

73. J.T. Poston

6-Month SG Rank: 79
2-Year SG Rank: 53
Projected 2021 Earnings: $989025

Notes: He's gained strokes putting in 65% of his measured rounds over the last year. That is 7th best among TOUR members, over that stretch. His lack of ball-striking upside limits his potential in most big events but his short game makes him a serious threat to contend anytime he heads to a course with less emphasis on power (Harbour Town, Colonial, Sedgefield, Waialae, etc).

72. Charles Howell III

6-Month SG Rank: 60
2-Year SG Rank: 43
Projected 2021 Earnings: $998592

Notes: He's been the human ATM for decades but showed a major decline last season. He missed the cut in 6-of-20 starts and landed just six top 25s. Those are still good numbers by most standards but the top-25 number is his lowest since 2006. Steady iron play was once a staple of his game but CH3 lost strokes on approach in roughly 60% of his measured rounds last year. Combine that with his age (41) and we may see Howell flirt with the FedExup bubble for the first time in his career. I'm not saying that's extremely likely but I am factoring in the possibility which is why I would avoid him personally in season-long leagues.

71. Alex Noren

6-Month SG Rank: 63
2-Year SG Rank: 93
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1001513

Notes: The Swede stayed focus on Stateside events last season and produced eight top 25s in 17 starts. From a consistency standpoint, he was top-15 on TOUR around-the-green and top 20 in the putting department. There were a couple of seasons on the European Tour where Noren was a GIR machine but that skill hasn't translated to the PGA TOUR just yet. If he does have one of those season's then look for him to flirt with a win or two because his short game is as sharp as humanly possible.

70. Jordan Spieth

6-Month SG Rank: 96
2-Year SG Rank: 58
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1022704

Notes: He's such a polarizing name when it comes to fantasy golf owners. Some love him and say his comeback is just around the corner. Others say his run of multi-win seasons had a bit too much luck involved and he was overrated to begin with. I lean toward the former as I think the Texas is just too good to have his career completely derailed before the age of 30. You don't win 11 events over a four-year stretch on luck alone. The problem is that Spieth has hit fewer fairways than the field in 72% of his rounds over the last six months so his driving concerns aren't getting any better, statistically. Even through all the struggles, he missed just 3-of-17 cuts last season. There is a lot of upside drafting Spieth in nearly all season-long formats.

69. Sergio Garcia

6-Month SG Rank: 49
2-Year SG Rank: 49
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1042725

Notes: He remained Stateside after the COVID break but still managed just 12 starts last season. Garcia has now made 15 or fewer starts in five of the last six seasons on the PGA TOUR. If he decides to stay close to his family again this season then we'd probably see him snap that 15-start barrier but the more likely scenario is that we see him add European Tour events back onto his plate which leads us back to the same issue we've had for years. A low number of expected PGA TOUR starts.

68. Shane Lowry

6-Month SG Rank: 50
2-Year SG Rank: 36
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1042724

Notes: He's still gaining access to all of the big events while positioned at No. 33 in the OWGR but he didn't play like a top 35 player in the world last season. Lowry landed just five top 35s in 13 starts on TOUR. On the bright side, his underlying ball-striking stats were solid. The Irishman gained strokes off-the-tee in 66% of his measured rounds and gained strokes on approach in 64% of his rounds, over the last year. If your format will allow you to maximize his big weeks (likely in WGC or other strong field events) then he's a great play. However, if your format leads you to bench him in those big events for bigger stars this he's likely a poor draft pick because his expected earnings in non-Majors/WGCs will be much lower due to the low number of starts he makes.

67. Kevin Na

6-Month SG Rank: 46
2-Year SG Rank: 47
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1047127

Notes: His game has never been suited for all TOUR venues but he finds a way to feast on the courses that fit his game. Na has finished top 100 FedExCup in all but one season (injury-shortened 2013). On top of that, there is always a Thursday morning sweat when it comes to finding out if he was a last-minute WD which he's had to do a few times over the last couple of years. On paper he's a superb play anytime past 50th on a draft board but personally I would only have interest if he fell back to the mid-60s or later.

66. Talor Gooch

6-Month SG Rank: 60
2-Year SG Rank: 69
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1080108

Notes: Gooch gained strokes on approach, around-the-green, and with the putter last season. It resulted in a career season for him, landing nine top 25s in 24 starts, finishing 60th in the FedExCup race. He's led or co-led after just two rounds on TOUR but that number could (should) increase in 2021.

65. Zach Johnson

6-Month SG Rank: 27
2-Year SG Rank: 65
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1092728

Notes: ZJ pelted more greens than the field in 65 percent of his rounds after the restart. That puts him around names like Kyle Stanley, Corey Conners, Tony Finau, Tiger Woods, Tyrrell Hatton, and Lucas Glover. All names that are known for steady ball-striking. He's getting up there in age but there is plenty of gas left in the tank according to his recent iron play.

64. Gary Woodland

6-Month SG Rank: 90
2-Year SG Rank: 27
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1121810

Notes: If you get a healthy Woodland then you'll have a steal on your hands given his current market value. The value is so low because he's dealing with injuries. The Kansas product lost strokes tee-to-green in 15 of his last 22 measured rounds this year so it's definitely impacting his game.

63. Ian Poulter

6-Month SG Rank: 25
2-Year SG Rank: 29
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1171202

Notes: From an efficiency standpoint he was still a top-30 talent this year but you are playing with age and schedule variables when you draft the Englishman. He'll be 45-years old in January and he played eight European Tour events this season. It's the type of play that I prefer to avoid but if he falls far enough in a draft then I'd be happy to snag him up for cheap.

62. Cameron Davis

6-Month SG Rank: 71
2-Year SG Rank: 127
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1171201

Notes: His swing is so silky. It's not a surprise then to see that he gained strokes off-the-tee in 71% of his measured rounds last season. The six closest names to him in that regard are Keegan Bradley, Rory McIlroy, Max Homa, Daniel Berger, Adam Schenk, and Collin Morikawa. That's a great list of drivers to be associated with. The best part is that Davis is just 25-years old and still has his peak years ahead of him. The 2-year performance baseline is just 127th as you can see from above but I would lean toward that 6-month trend and try to pick him up much earlier in drafts. I think he's a great breakout candidate in 2021.

61. Keegan Bradley

6-Month SG Rank: 74
2-Year SG Rank: 75
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1171200

Notes: The noted ball-striker has finished 103rd or better in all 10 seasons on TOUR. He's still getting the job done from tee-to-green as he ended last season ranked 33rd in strokes gained tee-to-green.

60. Adam Long

6-Month SG Rank: 56
2-Year SG Rank: 81
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1203024

Notes: The 33-year-old was known as a boom-or-bust option that you wanted to target in birdie-fests but he's proving that he's not a one-trick pony. Long ended 2020 with cuts made in 14 of his last 16 starts. That included a runner-up at the 3M Open, a solo 5th at the Corales, and a T3 at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Okay, you still probably want to target him on easy courses but he's proving he can provide some week-to-week value on all courses now.

59. Cameron Tringale

6-Month SG Rank: 51
2-Year SG Rank: 65
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1226885

Notes: He changed his swing to chase distance and it actually worked out. Tringale finished 49th in driving distance last season. He's spent most of his career ranked outside of the top 140 in distance so this is a major change for him. If you are playing DFS then he's one to ignore when it comes to looking at bad course history. There will be courses that now suit him better due to his added length off the tee. After finishing 82nd in the FedExCup race last season, I expect him to improve upon that and potentially even flirt with the TOUR Championship in 2021. The Georgia Tech product has made it to East Lake just once before (2014).

58. Cameron Champ

6-Month SG Rank: 72
2-Year SG Rank: 116
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1240258

Notes: Speaking of distance, Champ remains one of the longest on TOUR and it's still effortless. He ranked 131st in strokes gained approach and 179th around-the-green so there are still some obvious spots for improvement.

57. Emiliano Grillo

6-Month SG Rank: 69
2-Year SG Rank: 86
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1259255

Notes: The Argentine has some of the worst short-game stats you can find but he's trending upward to end the year with top 35s in seven of his last eight starts. Short game has always been a weakness for Grillo but it hit a new low in 2019 and the early parts of 2020. If he goes back to being just slightly below average in the short-game departments then there is a lot of upside in the form of top-heavy finishes. He's finished top 70 in the FedExCup in four of his last five seasons and expect him to land there again this season.

56. Aaron Wise

6-Month SG Rank: 79
2-Year SG Rank: 85
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1292940

Notes: The 2018 Rookie of the Year fell off the map in his two follow-up seasons (114th- and 150th-place finishes in the FedExCup). Wise found his groove again this fall, landing top 30s in four of his last six starts including a runner-up finish at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. I'd be happy to take a chance on good pedigree and reinvest in the Oregon standout.

55. Sepp Straka

6-Month SG Rank: 59
2-Year SG Rank: 103
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1301918

Notes: Last season the Georgia Bulldog ranked 38th off-the-tee, 83rd on approach, and 53rd in strokes gained putting. It was just his second full season on TOUR and his confidence is starting to show. Over the fall he kept the momentum rolling with paydays in 7-of-8 tournaments played, turning three of those into top 25s. The 2-year baseline number isn't that exciting but I'm following the short-term trend with Straka as I think he's found out what works best for him in terms of managing a PGA TOUR schedule, course setup, etc.

54. Joel Dahmen

6-Month SG Rank: 69
2-Year SG Rank: 71
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1317780

Notes: He's known as a ball-striking machine but also gained strokes putting in six of his last nine starts this year. He even showcased the Happy Gilmore putting technique in his final event of the year. He's held a share of the first-round lead on four occasions but led/co-led just once after any other round on the PGA TOUR. It might be a mental hurdle holding him back but he's shown all the tools required to lap a field on any given day.

53. Erik van Rooyen

6-Month SG Rank: 34
2-Year SG Rank: 31
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1317778

Notes: Playing out of the Top 125 Non-Member category, this will be a big year for the South African as he tries to lock down a long-term spot on the PGA TOUR. You never know what these pros will do when it comes to determining a playing schedule but if it were me then I'd try to play in as many PGA TOUR events as possible and scoop up a win or a few podium finishes. EVR has the skills to do that and he'd likely shatter his value if he played a full PGA TOUR schedule but you still find him splitting time between tours, for now. His unpredictable schedule is the only thing holding him back from being top 35 in my rankings.

52. Sebastian Munoz

6-Month SG Rank: 66
2-Year SG Rank: 70
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1350256

Notes: The 27-year-old North Texas alum finished 8th in the FedExCup last season. He showcased an all-around game by gaining strokes in all four sub-categories of strokes gained last season. He's a name to avoid in fantasy formats that set a salary based on last season's output. It will be hard for him to match that one. However, he's still a very good player overall and should be drafted with confidence anytime he falls outside of the top 40.

51. Carlos Ortiz

6-Month SG Rank: 60
2-Year SG Rank: 72
Projected 2021 Earnings: $1353171

Notes: Another North Texas product, Ortiz appears to be following in the footsteps of Munoz this season. Munoz finished top 10 in the FedExCup last season on the heels of a breakout win. Ortiz got that breakout win this fall and currently sits at 6th in the FedExCup race. Similar to Munoz, Ortiz has the tools to gain strokes consistently in all four sub-categories of strokes gained. He'll likely be overvalued in season-long drafts if people take a look at the early-season results. Looking at his baseline metrics you wouldn't draft him until 60th or later. However, I think his fall surge should be taken more seriously so I'd happily pick him somewhere in the 40th to 60th range.

Check back soon for part five where we'll crack into the Top 50 golfers to target for the 2021 schedule.