2019 Fantasy golf preview: Our top 100 PGA Tour ranking
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2019 Fantasy golf preview: Our top 100 PGA Tour ranking

The 2018-2019 PGA Tour season is well underway, with the wraparound portion of the season already completed. However, thousands upon thousands of fantasy golf leagues run on the calendar year portion of the season, meaning there are drafts to be had and eight months of picks still to come.

For those of you whose leagues are about to really get going, at the request of a loyal reader, I wanted to put together a first. I’ve compiled a top 100 ranking of PGA Tour players that could be helpful for draft leagues and keeper leagues.
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My philosophy

This top 100 list is based on several different criteria, in order:

  1. Overall expected performance: Emphasizing the biggest events (majors, WGCs, The Players, the FedEx Cup playoffs and invitationals), I rank players based on how I anticipate them doing throughout the year.
  2. Cut-making ability: In the latter stages of a draft, I want to pick up players who I think will make more cuts compared to their middling peers. Cashing checks and picking up points can add up over time, and it’s better to be boring than to pounce on a player who may have a potentially higher upside but a more likely downside.
  3. Horses for courses: The reality is the first two categories should capture the bulk of players you’d want, including many of the players you’d use in one-and-done leagues for specific events based on past performance. However, there are some players, even those with marginal status, who have tremendous records at specific events. If you have picks left and feel like you want to take a gamble in search of a specific top-10 finish or better, then you can look to these guys.

When evaluating overall performance, I’m looking at volume of top-10 and top-25 finishes, including those in the biggest events with the largest purses. I also look at Official World Golf Ranking points, as well a stat we have here at GNN called Quality Strokes Gained, which weights strokes gained in a tournament against the field strength as measured by the OWGR. (i.e., QSG doubles the value of strokes gained in majors while reducing the value of strokes gained in events with first-place OWGR awards of less than 50 points.)

Wins are nice, but there will only typically be a handful or less of multiple-time winners in a given season. That means we’re looking at 35-40 players who could win an event this year. There will be some unexpected winners, of course, but probably no more than three that wouldn’t be in this top 100.

In other words, this list should catch almost all the winners, but the difference between winning and losing is so fine and so small it’s not worth chasing a win with a draft pick.

It’s also key to note that, while I’ve ranked 100 players here in order, it’s fair to say each player is operating within a range. If I wrote this ranking three weeks from now, it wouldn’t be the same, but it would be close.

The PGA Tour top 100 ranking

  • 1. Justin Rose — The world No. 1 or 2, depending on the day, plays the second-most consistent golf on the planet right now. He has radically improved his short game, and it should hold.
  • 2. Dustin Johnson — Dustin Johnson won three times in 2018, and he somehow lost 70 total OWGR points compared to 2017. He’s still as good as he’s always been.
  • 3. Brooks Koepka — Koepka won two majors last year, and he did it in cold-blooded fashion. He’s becoming more of a week-to-week stud, and he’ll have a full schedule in 2019.
  • 4. Justin Thomas — JT won three times in the last season, and he was a more consistent player than he was in 2017. He lost ground in the world ranking. Tough game.
  • 5. Tiger Woods — Tiger Woods would be in the top 3-5 in the world ranking if he weren’t penalized with the minimum divisor. Very high on him for 2019, but potential fatigue has to be managed.
  • 6. Bryson DeChambeau — Bryson is either in the middle of a shooting-star kind of run that will die out quickly, or he’s about to become the next 30-time PGA Tour winner. Right now, looks like the latter.
  • 7. Jon Rahm — Jon Rahm won three times worldwide in 2018, and he’s been a top-10 demon since turning pro. He’s been working on letting his emotions get the best of him. The next step is big performances in majors.
  • 8. Tony Finau — Tony Finau is the opposite of Rahm in a sense. He’s figured out how to get close in majors, and pretty much anything else. The step he has to make is into the winner’s circle.
  • 9. Tommy Fleetwood — Tommy Fleetwood is going to win a major. It could well be in 2019 (Pebble?). He’s just so solid in his all-around game, and he doesn’t back down.
  • 10. Patrick Cantlay — Patrick Cantlay is unbearably slow, but he’s also remarkably consistent. His arrival as a pro to the place we thought he could be a half-dozen years ago is encouraging, and he’s only getting better.
  • 11. Xander Schauffele — The X Man seems to win at random times, but he’s won three times on the PGA Tour in a couple of seasons and in pretty big spots.
  • 12. Jason Day — Day played a very limited schedule in 2018, and you should expect the same in 2019. When he did play, he was phenomenal. The ceiling is high. But injuries and sickness always linger.
  • 13. Rickie Fowler — Rickie Fowler makes a ton of money per event. He is an OWGR point collector. But he doesn’t win. And he loses in excruciating fashion at times. This has to be the year be figures out how to win and still be true to his personality…or it’s not happening.
  • 14. Rory McIlroy — Rory truly seems to have had enough of golf at times. But he’s committed to playing the PGA Tour this year in search of getting himself back where he belongs when he’s on his game. At his best, Rory is untouchable. We just hardly see it.
  • 15. Webb Simpson — Webb Simpson’s ascent to become one of golf’s most consistent performers is a remarkable story. His short game, including his putter, has become a big asset. He could win a second major in 2019.
  • 16. Francesco Molinari — Molinari is arguably the Player of the Year in 2018, even if he didn’t win as many majors as Brooks Koepka. My concern is his career-best year will be too difficult to replicate.
  • 17. Jordan Spieth — This is a pivotal year for Spieth, in my opinion. He has to be confident with his short game again, or otherwise, he could be lapped by other players.
  • 18. Cameron Smith — I’m very high on Cam Smith, maybe too high. His QSG figure doesn’t align with his world ranking position. However, Cam has become a more consistent player on the path up this year.
  • 19. Sergio Garcia — Sergio kinda checked out on a lot of this year. He won the Masters in ’17, then he became a dad. Life changed. Then in the fall, he got back to business. Don’t write off Sergio.
  • 20. Marc Leishman — Leishman wins at unpredictable times, but he’s also a solid player on the world stage. He was disappointing in the majors last year, and he needs to step up in them.
  • 21. Charles Howell III — CH3 got the win he wanted for 12 years at Sea Island. But that’s not going to change him away from being the consistent player he is. He’s a great horse-for-course on a number of tracks, too.
  • 22. Gary Woodland — Gary Woodland has started to fulfill more of his potential. He enjoyed a great 2018, and he’s off to a great start in this new season.
  • 23. Cameron Champ — This may be a risky rating for Champ, who hits the ball miles but doesn’t always control the dispersion well. On the weeks he putts well, he’ll come close to winning. He’ll make a lot of money.
  • 24. Paul Casey — Paul Casey slipped a little in 2018, but he’s still a reliable fantasy pick. My concern is he’s closing on the downside of his career, but he’s the English CH3.
  • 25. Hideki Matsuyama — Hideki Matsuyama was the most disappointing player in the world in 2018, but that’s because he didn’t continue winning at his amazing 2017 clip. He’s still a consistent high finisher and a great talent.
  • 26. Alex Noren — Alex Noren gets big scalps in Europe. He has been a solid worldwide player in making the leap to the PGA Tour. Is he a major winner? Maybe not, but he’s capable.
  • 27. Bubba Watson — Bubba Watson revived his career in 2018. Amazing what a golf ball change did for him. However, Watson is unpredictable in form, and he’s a bigger risk after the Travelers in June.
  • 28. Emiliano Grillo — Grillo is a world traveler, and I respect that about him. He takes his game all over, and he usually represents himself well. I’d like to see him in the top 5 and top 10 more often, but he’s progressing well.
  • 29. Phil Mickelson — Phil won in Mexico. He won The Match (for what that’s worth). But will the eternal optimist be able to optimize his schedule in the season where he turns 49 to maximize his ability and energy.
  • 30. Patrick Reed — Reed won the Masters, and then he disappeared until he bitched about being in the line-drive section at Fenway. That said, Reed posts lots of high finishes, and the Ryder Cup flameout may give him a new chip for his shoulder.
  • 31. Henrik Stenson — Stenson had an injury-plagued 2018. He didn’t finish second or better in an event for the first time since 2011. However, he racked up a slew of top-10s, and he’ll be back.
  • 32. Rafa Cabrera Bello — RCB made a quiet transition to the PGA Tour in 2017, and he had some very strong finishes. He basically did the same thing in 2018. That makes him a top 35 player.
  • 33. Aaron Wise — Aaron Wise has a huge ceiling. He could be a top-20 player by the end of the year. Maybe top 15. After the Nelson win, he had to figure some things out, but he seems on the right path.
  • 34. Byeong Hun An — Ben An missed two cuts all year, and he nearly won the Memorial and Canadian Open. This is what he’s capable of doing, and hopefully he’ll keep doing it in 2019.
  • 35. Adam Scott — Scott is a man with a life in transition, becoming a multi-time dad. That changes things, and Scott knows golf isn’t everything. The talent is there, but is the will?
  • 36. Billy Horschel — Billy Horschel is a fascinating player. He goes on a few runs per year that shows he could be a top-10 player. He goes on awful runs, too.
  • 37. Joaquin Niemann — Niemann would be ranked about 65th in the world if he had more pro starts under his belt. He has cooled after a hot start following turning pro, but the talent is clear.
  • 38. Kevin Kisner — Kisner took 10 weeks off after the playoffs, and that cost him in the world ranking. Otherwise, he would still be about where he is on this ranking: a solid, top 35 player.
  • 39. Ian Poulter — This isn’t a Ryder Cup year, so maybe Ian Poulter will regress to the mean a bit. However, the man reinvented himself in 2017, and he backed it up in 2018.
  • 40. Keegan Bradley — Bradley is such a good ballstriker. If he could literally putt like the 100th-best putter on Tour, he might win annually. He missed just two cuts in 2018, which was a big part of his resurgence.
  • 41. Abraham Ancer — Abe Ancer won the Aussie Open, and he got off to a great start on the PGA Tour season. He’s showing what he’s capable of doing, and he finally seems comfortable at this level.
  • 42. Tyrrell Hatton — Hatton is far too emotional of a player. He’s not as good as Jon Rahm. But they both have incredible short games and can channel their emotions to big finishes and wins.
  • 43. Daniel Berger — Straight Vibin’ couldn’t build on his 2017. He had a single top-10 finish. He needs to become more consistent, particularly on tougher courses, to take the next step in his career. Health was an issue in 2018.
  • 44. Sungjae Im — I’m in on Im. He came over from South Korea, crushed the Web.com Tour and nearly won in his debut at the Safeway.
  • 45. Brian Harman — Harman backtracked from a career year in 2017, but he’s demonstrated he has the game to be that good. His ballstriking must continue to improve.
  • 46. Beau Hossler — Hossler was a stud on Thursdays and Fridays, sometimes Saturdays. He was a disaster on most Sundays. He’ll get better, and he’ll make a big leap forward this year.
  • 47. Kyle Stanley — Kyle Stanley is even more Keegan Bradley than Keegan Bradley at times. He is so good from tee to green that carries him a lot of the time. Positive SG putting weeks are big checks.
  • 48. Luke List — Luke List took a big step forward in 2018, and I swear he’ll win eventually. He’s just too good not to get a trophy soon.
  • 49. Matt Kuchar — Kuchar went through a tough stretch in the early summer that showed he may be on the decline. He’s not the top-10 machine he once was, but his win at Mayakoba shows his game still plays.
  • 50. Brandt Snedeker — Snedeker is in the same boat as Kuchar. They’re accomplished players who were once printing money and now struggling a little. But Sneds shot 59 and won at Greensboro, so…he’s good.
  • 51. Si Woo Kim — Si Woo Kim has so much upside, but he is impossible to predict. You want to like him every week because of his talent, but his erratic reality makes gaming him tough.
  • 52. Kevin Na — Kevin Na returned to his form in 2018 (with a surprise Greenbrier win!) after a down ’17. He cashes a lot of checks and has about 6-9 great weeks (for him) per year.
  • 53. Peter Uihlein — Peter Uihlein is the American Si Woo Kim. If the guy could just be more consistent, the talent is there for him to become a top-20 player.
  • 54. Chesson Hadley — Chesson Hadley is a guy in the mold of CH3: lots of high finishes. However, he has been trending toward more missed cuts and higher variance. That got him in trouble during his initial Tour run.
  • 55. Louis Oosthuizen — Louis Oosthuizen has the talent to win and make it look as easy as Rory McIlroy does. However, frequent injury keeps him from being as good as he can be.
  • 56. Charl Schwartzel — Charl Schwartzel took a step back in 2018, but he doesn’t seem to understand why. The reality is he’s missing more cuts now than other points of his career that can’t sustain his great weeks.
  • 57. Brendan Steele — I’m not as high on Steele as others, but he did win the Safeway twice in a row, and he navigates the PGA Tour schedule comfortably.
  • 58. CT Pan — CT Pan became a more consistent player in 2018 in one sense that he finishes higher more often. However, he still plays too often, and he misses too many cuts. Both must change.
  • 59. Charley Hoffman — Hoffman was much more ordinary in 2018. He didn’t have a single top-10 finish. It was his worst season since 2012. He should be back.
  • 60. Bud Cauley — Cauley has made a remarkable comeback from a near-fatal car wreck the week of the Memorial. He’s come back playing strong, and I expect more.
  • 61. Pat Perez — Perez dropped precipitously in the world ranking after a career 2017, but his end-of-year results suggest he’s on the way back to somewhere just shy of his career-best.
  • 62. Scott Piercy — Something went wrong for Scott Piercy in 2018. He was erratic and missed a slew of cuts. And then he seemed to figure it out at the end of the year. This ranking is a hopeful one for the Vegas native.
  • 63. Danny Willett — Danny Willett is back, baby! He won the Euro Tour season-ender in Dubai, culminating a tough slog back with Sean Foley. He appears ready to regain his place among the world’s best players.
  • 64. Ryan Palmer — Ryan Palmer had a tough personal year, with his wife battling cancer. However, the news has improved on that front, and Palmer’s results inside the ropes suggest a rejuvenated player.
  • 65. Adam Hadwin — The Canadian’s 2018 wasn’t really all that different than his 2017, save for a lack of a win. He’s a good player who scores plenty of six-figure checks.
  • 66. Sam Burns — This is a pre-emptive call, but Sam Burns should be a stud. He turned pro, whooped the Web.com Tour right away and got to the big show.
  • 67. Jason Kokrak — Kokrak plays a lot of golf, and that’s how he likes to do it. But it can tire him out and lead to stretches where he plays poorly. But he’s always going to be good for several close calls a year.
  • 68. Keith Mitchell — Keith Mitchell is a younger Kokrak. The guy can just clobber the ball. And he’ll score some high finishes, but his consistency is a concern.
  • 69. Russell Knox — Knox is a really good player who has missed a staggering number of cuts (21) the last two years. If he could just cash more checks, he’d be a more valuable draft pick.
  • 70. Kevin Tway — Kevin Tway won in 2018 at the Safeway, and he is an ascending player. I’m not sure his ceiling, hence the tepid ranking.
  • 71. Andrew Putnam — Following a rough start to the 2018 year, Putnam played a brilliant second half with a runner-up to DJ in Memphis and winning in Reno. But will it continue?
  • 72. Jimmy Walker — After a battle with Lyme disease, Walker flexed some of that major-winning talent again in 2018. He needs more than three great weeks in a year to jump the rankings.
  • 73. Ryan Moore — This is who Ryan Moore is. He might win, might not. He’ll miss few cuts and have a handful of top-10 finishes. He won’t wow you, but he’s really good.
  • 74. Austin Cook — Cook didn’t build very well on his win at the end of calendar 2017. He found himself in the money plenty, but not in the top 25 as much as he’d like. He can make forward strides this year.
  • 75. JJ Spaun — Spaun enjoyed a great fall, buoying his rating, but he’s like a lot of guys who play nearly 30 times in that he misses way too many cuts.
  • 76. Denny McCarthy — I’m biased, but I think McCarthy will do much better in Year 2 on the PGA Tour. He already has. He has the ability to win, but he needs to develop comfort on the PGA Tour schedule.
  • 77. Zach Johnson — This was Zach Johnson’s worst season in 12 years, and it honestly was really good. He had six consecutive top-19 finishes in the middle of the summer. He can still play.
  • 78. Nick Watney — Nick Watney came back to life in 2018 with the kind of season the four-time winner has flexed in the past. He didn’t win, but he doesn’t miss many cuts. The win could come in ’19.
  • 79. Patton Kizzire — Kizzire won two times last season, but he’s working toward making his game even better. It plays out painfully at times, but when it clicks for him, he’ll become a huge value this season.
  • 80. Branden Grace — Grace was disappointing in 2018, but he almost always gets in big events, and he does well on tough golf courses. Hopefully he rebounds this year.
  • 81. Dylan Frittelli — Made his way onto the PGA Tour through the Web by virtue of his world ranking. He has potential, but I wonder if he’s a reliable week-to-week guy.
  • 82. Danny Lee — He plays a lot, so that leads to some self-inflicted downstreaks, but he ended the year on a high note.
  • 83. Ryan Armour — Armour won in this last season, and he had his best season now in his 40s. But his downside is like so many at the tail end of the top 100: He plays too much and misses too many cuts.
  • 84. Patrick Rodgers — Expectations were high for Rodgers when he went pro. He hasn’t met those, but he hasn’t had a problem on Tour. Could be a big year for him.
  • 85. Stewart Cink — Cink came back after a few seasons more focused on his wife, Lisa, and her cancer battle. He’s still a very solid player at this stage in his career.
  • 86. Martin Laird — In concept, I love Laird because he makes plenty of money with solid finishes. He doesn’t play that much compared to peers at this part of the ranking scale, though, so that’s a downside.
  • 87. Chris Kirk — Kirk could be a huge value this year. He’s his own (equipment) man again, and he has enough weeks of the year he plays beautiful golf. If he has just a few more, he’s a top-60 guy.
  • 88. Ollie Schniederjans — I thought Ollie would win this past season. He didn’t. I think he’s doing well enough to be a solid PGA Tour player, but I’d like a little more to regain the confidence I had last season.
  • 89. Russell Henley — Henley is a streaky dude with a wonderful wand. He was a low-volume player last season, which is a good thing for a veteran who knows his spots and his game.
  • 90. Chez Reavie — Chez probably deserves a higher ranking. He’s solid for many weeks of the year, and he occasionally shines brightly.
  • 91. Jamie Lovemark — I tend to downplay Lovemark because of his dark runs, but he’s been around for a darn long time now. Would love to see him get a trophy in 2019.
  • 92. JB Holmes — Holmes seems on the decline. He’s not the lauded bomber anymore. But he puts in enough good performances to warrant a late pick.
  • 93. Harold Varner III — I would love HV3 more if he wasn’t a late-season bloomer. He loves the latter half of the year. It makes playing him in the early part of the year look kinda foolish, though.
  • 94. Brian Gay — The veteran knows how to score top-10 finishes. He’s been at this a long time, and he’s still damn good at it.
  • 95. Kevin Streelman — Streelman missed an alarming number of cuts this year, like he did in 2016. He’s a veteran and can get his way around the PGA Tour schedule, but he’s not a sure thing.
  • 96. Scott Stallings — Scott Stallings has some incredible flourishes in his career, and he typically has a couple per year. But he will also miss a ton of cuts.
  • 97. Andrew Landry — Andrew Landry did win this year. He also missed a boatload of cuts, and that’s been his PGA Tour experience.
  • 98. Satoshi Kodaira — Hey! Remember Satoshi Kodaira won the Heritage? He absolutely stunk when he turned on a time to play the PGA Tour schedule, but he can keep up. He won the money list in Japan. He just needs time and a game plan.
  • 99. Jason Dufner — Dufner really struggled in 2018 after a resurgent 2017. He’s too good of a ballstriker to be ranked this low, and I suspect he’ll be a great value this year.
  • 100. Kevin Chappell — Chappell will be coming back from a microdiscectomy to deal with back issues that torpedoed his 2018. He’d be ranked way higher based on his ’17, but it’s hard to predict backs.

About the author


Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]thegolfnewsnet.com

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