Top 150 Golfers for 2021: Part 6

Josh Culp
·15 min read

It's the final countdown. Not to the new year, that was last night. Today, it's counting down the final 25 golfers on my list of Top 150 golfers to target in fantasy golf leagues for the 2021 schedule.

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

PART ONE (126th to 150th)

PART TWO (101st to 125th)

PART THREE (76th to 100th)

PART FOUR (51st to 75th)

PART FIVE (50th to 26th)

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.

25. Matthew Wolff

6-Month SG Rank: 28
2-Year SG Rank: 50
Projected 2021 Earnings: $2039412

Notes: I was slow to come around on Wolff as I preferred Morikawa and Hovland out of the gate when that trio was all the rage. I guess I still do prefer the other two over Wolff but I know realize that Wolff is a very legit TOUR golfer in his own right. On top of that, he opened his career in major championships with a pair of top 5s. I guess you could say his game holds up under pressure which is a great sign when looking for golfers that are going to win and/or place on the podium slightly more often than the stats suggest they should.

24. Will Zalatoris

6-Month SG Rank: 40
2-Year SG Rank: 20
Projected 2021 Earnings: $2134656

Notes: He's playing on Special Temporary Membership so you won't get any Playoff starts out of him unless he wins an event. A win would not shock anyone when you consider how well he's played over the last year. He feasted on the Korn Ferry circuit and then posted finishes of T16 or better in four of his six PGA TOUR events played this fall. That includes a T6 at the U.S. Open, proving his ball-striking skills are some of the best in the world.

23. Tyrrell Hatton

6-Month SG Rank: 9
2-Year SG Rank: 13
Projected 2021 Earnings: $2194001

Notes: The Englishman has an all-around game that makes him a threat on any course. Looking at his career bests on the PGA TOUR, he's gained as much as 4.8 strokes off-the-tee in a single event, 9.2 strokes on approach is his personal best, 6.8 strokes around-the-green, and 9.3 strokes putting. Of course, he makes it a priority to travel back across the pond for a handful of events each year, which limits the amount of starts you'll get from him on the PGA TOUR.

22. Cameron Smith

6-Month SG Rank: 28
2-Year SG Rank: 43
Projected 2021 Earnings: $2215950

Notes: The young Aussie ended on a high note with top 25s in seven of his last eight events played. That included a T4 at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP and a runner-up finish at the Masters. Some people think he's offiically "broken out" after finishing 12th in the FedExCup in 2018 and 24th this year. However, some still think he has another level that's yet to be unlocked. He still doesn't impress off the tee so that even minor improvements in that department would elevate his game to a new consistency baseline.

21. Billy Horschel

6-Month SG Rank: 36
2-Year SG Rank: 35
Projected 2021 Earnings: $2244879

Notes: He's a steady earner with at least $2 million collected in each of the last four seasons. He's climbed the ladder enough to play in all of the biggest events (42nd in the OWGR) but still hungry enough to play a loaded schedule (26+ starts in six of the last eight years).

20. Abraham Ancer

6-Month SG Rank: 20
2-Year SG Rank: 29
Projected 2021 Earnings: $2275858

Notes: He's seen his good buddies like Munoz, Ortiz, and Niemann pick up wins around him but Ancer is still searching for the breakout victory. The star from Mexico has certainly been close, especially this fall where he posted top 15s in three of his last five starts. He has nine career top 5s on the PGA TOUR and it seems like it's just a matter of time before a win or two drops into his lap. He ranked top 45 in strokes gained off-the-tee, approach, and putting last year so it's an all-around game that is driving the ship.

19. Daniel Berger

6-Month SG Rank: 8
2-Year SG Rank: 31
Projected 2021 Earnings: $2301266

Notes: While many are complaining about how awful 2020 was, Berger likely has no complaints. He started the year ranked outside of the top 150 in the Offiicial World Golf Ranking and currently sits at 13th after a win and six other top 10s were added to his resume. It was easy to expect his status as a star to be done after his battle with wrist issues but he's come back stronger than ever in 2020. Boog gained strokes tee-to-green in 72% of his measured rounds in the last year. That is 10th best on TOUR over that time span.

18. Webb Simpson

6-Month SG Rank: 5
2-Year SG Rank: 7
Projected 2021 Earnings: $2364646

Notes: I keep waiting for the major dropoff after his career resurgence but he keeps going strong with three wins and 22 other top 10s since the start of the 2017-18 campaign. I will admit that it's mostly personal bias that is dropping him lower in my rankings and if you want to just trust the numbers then he belongs in the top 10 for sure. Personally, I will plan to invest in DFS formats for the short-term but quickly start to fade him at the first signs of his baseline dropping.

17. Sungjae Im

6-Month SG Rank: 55
2-Year SG Rank: 31
Projected 2021 Earnings: $2437191

Notes: I'm a sucker for young talent and that's exaclty what Im is. The 22-year-old already has 71 career PGA TOUR events under his belt and he's turned 15 of those into top-10 finishes. His iron play took a dip after the restart but he found his groover again late in the year with positive strokes gained approach in six of his last eight measued events. The youngster has made 35 and 26 starts in his first two seasons on TOUR so you know you are getting the volume when drafting him.

16. Joaquin Niemann

6-Month SG Rank: 31
2-Year SG Rank: 43
Projected 2021 Earnings: $2545594

Notes: The young Chilean gained more than 30 cumulative strokes off-the-tee in the last year, placing him at 15th best on TOUR. He also gained 38.4 strokes on approach over that timeframe which is 10th best. His putting performances are more sporadic but that ball-striking foundation is going to make him a star on the big stage for hte next few decades. The 22-year-old deserves consideration around 35th in the rankings if you just look at raw stats but when you factor in age and the likelihood for growth, he becomese much more atractive.

15. Harris English

6-Month SG Rank: 5
2-Year SG Rank: 36
Projected 2021 Earnings: $2587437

Notes: The Georgia Bulldog flopped with three straight seasons outside of the top 115 in the FedExCup but completely flipped the script last season. English went 18-for-20 with 14 of those paydays doubling as top 25s. He kept his foot on the gas with top 10s in four of his six starts. Where did all the improvement come from? Avoiding big numbers off the tee was key but he was went from losing 0.437 strokes per round on approach (2019) to gaining 0.454 strokes on approach per round. He's always been one of the better putters on TOUR so he'll remain a threat to win for as long as his ball-striking stays steady. There is nothing to suggest that is going away anytime soon.

14. Collin Morikawa

6-Month SG Rank: 24
2-Year SG Rank: 14
Projected 2021 Earnings: $2692167

Notes: Over the last year he's gained 63 cumulative strokes on approach (2nd best on TOUR) but lost 20.9 strokes putting. He already has four events on his resume where he's gained 8 or more strokes approaching-the-green for the week. That level of elite iron play is going to lead to a lot of top 25s and he'll threaten to win anytime the putter cooperates.

13. Patrick Cantlay

6-Month SG Rank: 11
2-Year SG Rank: 6
Projected 2021 Earnings: $2766167

Notes: He's finished top 35 in the FedExCup standings in each of his four seasons played since returning from injury. He only pegged it 12 times last season as he waited a bit longer than most to return to action after the restart. He got back on track with a T8 at the Shriners and a win at the ZOZO Championship in the fall. We've seen him post a $6.1 million season just two years ago so the upside is there to go along with a very steady $2 million floor, barring any injury.

12. Brooks Koepka

6-Month SG Rank: 18
2-Year SG Rank: 12
Projected 2021 Earnings: $2903136

Notes: Injuries were an issue for Koepka so we should give him a pass for posting just two top 25s in 13 starts last season. Feeling healthy again this fall, he's already posted a pair of top 10s in four starts. If he stays healthy then he'll almost surely beat this draft position, but that is no guarantee given his knee issues over the last three years.

11. Scottie Scheffler

6-Month SG Rank: 18
2-Year SG Rank: 19
Projected 2021 Earnings: $3016723

Notes: The Texan finished 5th in the FedExCup during his rookie campaign. His momentum was halted this fall when he came down with COVID but he ended the year with top 20s in two of his last three starts so he was back on track ahead of the holidays. Where is the strength of his game? Driving is where it all starts as he gained strokes off-the-tee in 79% of his measured rounds last year, which puts him down as the 11th most consistent driver on TOUR. The 24-year-old is just getting started and soon could be in the conversation as a top 5 golfer on TOUR.

10. Hideki Matsuyama

6-Month SG Rank: 17
2-Year SG Rank: 8
Projected 2021 Earnings: $3178767

Notes: He gets overlooked by many because his inability to get back in the winner's circle. He won five times in his first four seasons on TOUR but has now gone three fulls seasons without a victory. That being said, he ranked 2nd on TOUR in strokes gained tee-to-green last year. All of the tools are still there.

9. Viktor Hovland

6-Month SG Rank: 12
2-Year SG Rank: 16
Projected 2021 Earnings: $3346526

Notes: The young star made it to East Lake in his first full season on TOUR. A season that included a breakout win in Puerto Rico in addition to eight other top 25s (in 20 total events played). There was no sophomore slump for Hovland, at least not yet. He collected top 15s in four of his five starts this fall including a win at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Hovland already has eight measured events on his resume where he's gained at least 8 strokes tee-to-green for the week. The 23-year-old is going to be a star for years to come.

8. Tony Finau

6-Month SG Rank: 14
2-Year SG Rank: 15
Projected 2021 Earnings: $3550062

Notes: A continual underachiever by many gamers' lofty standards, due to his lack of wins. Finau has posted nine podium finishes since his 2016 breakout win at the Puerto Rico Open. Even without the wins he has managed to earn at least $4.3 million in two of the last three seasons. If a win or two happens to fall in his lap this year then $5 million is a reasonable mark for him to hit. The big Samoan ranked 11th tee-to-green last season and 69th in putting (+0.140 SGP per Round).

7. Patrick Reed

6-Month SG Rank: 10
2-Year SG Rank: 11
Projected 2021 Earnings: $3582664

Notes: The Texan often plays the busiest schedule of those in Tier 1 or Tier 2 of talent. Reed has posted 25 or more PGA TOUR starts in seven of the last eight seasons with last year's 20 obviously having an asterisks due to the COVID-shortened schedule. His efficiency combined with high volume of starts is what makes him so appealing.

6. Rory McIlroy

6-Month SG Rank: 12
2-Year SG Rank: 1
Projected 2021 Earnings: $3823094

Notes: His form slipped after the restart which we later realized was partially due to his off-the-course news of becoming a father. He was T10 or better after just 6-of-16 rounds to start the new season. That's a stellar ratio for mortals but McIlroy had been T10 or better after 21 of his last 22 rounds played before the season was paused at THE PLAYERS. On top of that, it appears that he's skipping the Tourney of Champs and starting his year in the Middle East. Focusing on Stateside events was something that got his game back in peak form just a few years ago so it's odd to see him already altering that gameplan that worked so well for him.

5. Bryson DeChambeau

6-Month SG Rank: 7
2-Year SG Rank: 9
Projected 2021 Earnings: $3920998

Notes: He's changing the game with the distance he's picked up and media attention it's receiving. More important to the issue is his actual improvement on the course. He's finished T4, WIN, and T34 in the three majors played since his distance gains. Before that, he had just one top 20 in a major, in 14 attempts. We saw him flirt with $5 million in earnings last year and already know he's capable off even more ($8 million in 2018). His ability to rack up wins (7 wins in 113 starts) is what gives him so much upside on a weekly, and yearly, level.

4. Jon Rahm

6-Month SG Rank: 2
2-Year SG Rank: 2
Projected 2021 Earnings: $4031950

Notes: There have been periods where he looks like the best golfer in the world and he's still so young (26). The only downside is that he splits time between tours. Rahm made 23 starts during his 2017 rookie campaign but has gone 20, 20, 15 since then. That means from now until the end of the 2021 season we should only expect 10 to 15 more starts while some of the other big names have expected starts of 15 to 20 from now until the end of the season.

3. Dustin Johnson

6-Month SG Rank: 1
2-Year SG Rank: 5
Projected 2021 Earnings: $4258260

Notes: He's the top golfer in the world since the restart but when golfers surge into peak form like this it often comes with a crash the following year. I'm not talking about a complete fall-off-the-radar year but I am banking on his returning to his career baseline which is still top 5 in the world.

2. Xander Schauffele

6-Month SG Rank: 4
2-Year SG Rank: 4
Projected 2021 Earnings: $4950787

Notes: Schauffele has finished top 15 in the FedExCup standings each of his first four seasons on TOUR. He's racked up 16 podium finishes in 100 starts which is a remarkable rate to start a career. He's a top-5 golfer from an efficiency standpoint but also plays a relatively busy schedule (around 20 to 25 expected starts each season). He's also just 27-years old so there is plenty of peak years remaining on his clock and plenty of time to continue his climb. That makes him a great pick in all fantasy formats.

1. Justin Thomas

6-Month SG Rank: 3
2-Year SG Rank: 3
Projected 2021 Earnings: $6011441

Notes: Most years there is a golfer that runs away from the field and wins three times or wins a major plus another event. Thomas is my leading candidate to be that guy this year. He's very familiar with that role, posting three or more wins in three of the last four seasons. The 27-year-old is still in his prime and should continue to be a threat to win any time he pegs it. If you are looking for a reason to avoid JT then look no further than the start of his schedule. He's planning to hit up the Abu Dhabi Championship for the first time in his career. Will that mess with his overall flow to start the year or will it reduce the number of PGA TOUR events he plays? Possibly, but it's still tough to pick another name above him.

That does it for the rankings this year. As always, feel free to reach out via Twitter if you have any questions that include the specific format of the league you play in.