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Golf Draft Kit: 2014-15 Rookies -- w/ Fall Update

Jeremy Schilling

Schilling covers golf for RotoWire, focusing on young and up-and-coming players. He was a finalist for the FSWA's Golf Writer of the Year award. He also contributes to PGA Magazine and hosts the popular podcast "Teeing It Up" on BlogTalkRadio.

Justin Thomas
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$1,200,000

Thomas has an opportunity to be an absolute stud on the PGA Tour. A part of an Alabama team that won a National Championship, Thomas won the third Web.com Tour Finals event, the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship, in a playoff for his first win of the year. Coupled with a second, third, fourth, and a fifth, it was an extremely solid year for Thomas, who finished fifth in total season money, will start the 2014-2015 PGA Tour season second on the Reshuffle List, and is in prime position to make a fall charge. Averaging 311.5 yards off the tee and ending the year third in scoring average, fantasy players will want to draft and start this guy early and often: he's got the making of an absolute young gun.

Post-Fall Outlook: Thomas got off to a rough start, going missed cut (MC)-MC-T71 in his first three starts, but finished strong with a T4 at McGladrey (with a Sunday 67) and a T23 in Mexico. Now 12th in the Reshuffle List, Thomas will need to improve on his consistency in 2015. He's 86th in strokes gained–tee to green, 86th in strokes gained–putting and 81st in strokes gained–total. That combination will get you a lot of solid finishes and the occasional win, but won't get you contending in majors or for FedEx Cups.

Carlos Ortiz
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$1,000,000

While there may be more accomplished rookies in terms of their track records before joining the Web.com Tour, there's no one who had a better year on the Web.com Tour than Ortiz. Ortiz won three times, at the Panama Claro Championship, El Bosque Mexico Championship, and WinCo Foods Portland Open, earning a Battlefield Promotion that makes him fully exempt on the PGA Tour for next season, allowing him to pick his own schedule. Statistically he finished fifth in the all-around ranking and sixth in total driving. He was overtaken in the overall regular season-plus-finals money list by Adam Hadwin, which negated a shot of getting into The Players, but it was still a hugely successful campaign for Ortiz. Look for big things from Ortiz.

Post-Fall Outlook: Ortiz is 58th in the FedEx Cup rankings after a fall that saw him make every cut and get one top-10 finish, a T9 at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. Seventh in strokes gained-putting, Ortiz looks poised for big things, especially if he plays well on the west coast in January and February. Having full status helps his cause a lot, too, guaranteeing him entry into nearly every event (sans majors and WGCs) that he wants.

Adam Hadwin
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$1,000,000

Hadwin has a chance to be an absolute star. He lit it up in the Web.com Tour Finals, going missed cut (MC)-1-T10-T7 over the four events. The win, his second of the year, came at the Chiquita Classic, and aided by his victory earlier in the season Chile Classic and eight other top-10s, Hadwin was able to supplant Ortiz at the Web.com Tour Championship for the leading Web.com Tour Regular Season-plus-Finals Money List earner, which gets him fully exempt, into the 2015 Players, and off of the Reshuffle List. With fellow Canadian and rising PGA Tour star Graham DeLaet as a resource to help ease his entry into the PGA Tour, look for his rookie season to be one that could include a victory, and possibly a fall win at that. With the PGA Tour season starting October 9 at the Frys.com Open, Hadwin could be a player who carries that momentum into an early season run on the biggest stage in golf.

Post-Fall Outlook: Hadwin had an up-and-down fall, getting a T10 in Las Vegas but also having three finishes of T53 or worse and a missed cut. It all adds up to being 92nd in the FedEx Cup standings, a solid start with a bright 2015 ahead. Because he's fully exempt, he doesn't have to worry about the issues Reshuffle List players will face and will get into most tournaments he wishes to enter. That means he can focus on reversing his 130th place ranking in strokes gained–tee to green.

Zac Blair
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$600,000

What Zac Blair did in the past month is utterly sensational. Graduating from BYU earlier this year with a degree in Recreation Management, Blair qualified for the U.S. Open, tying for 40th. He didn't play his first Web.com Tour event until July, but made enough money in basically a two month timeframe to qualify for the Web.com Tour Finals (a T2 at the Price Cutter Charity Championship certainly helped). But then his game hit a cold snap and he missed the cut in the first three Finals events, shooting no rounds in the 60s, before turning it ON at the Web.com Tour Championship, opening with 63-65 and ending up finishing solo second. That all adds up to an eighth place starting spot on the Reshuffle List and a ton of positive vibes heading into the Frys.com Open in two weeks.

Post-Fall Outlook: Blair has had a solid start to the 2014-15 PGA Tour season, going T12-T75-T32-MC-T23, accumulating more than $200K and 140 FedEx Cup points in the process. He's on track to meet expectations, and at 39th in strokes gained-putting, has the hot putter to make waves. He is sixth on the Reshuffle List.

Zach Sucher
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$600,000

Sucher's season started slowly but he was still able to clinch his card by virtue of a three week stretch that helped him finish third on the regular season Web.com Tour money list. It started at the Albertsons Boise Open where he tied for fourth, continued seven days later with a victory at the Midwest Classic, and finished it off the following week with a tie for second at the Stonebrae Classic. In total he amassed six top-10s and 11 top-25s in 25 starts. Seventh in the Web.com Tour all-around ranking last season, if Sucher can get better consistency (he missed nine cuts), he could be in line for a solid PGA Tour season.

Post-Fall Outlook: Sucher has had a miserable start to his season, missing the cut in all five fall events that he played, with just two rounds in the 60s. Besides being 17th in strokes gained-putting and 80th in driving distance, Sucher is 153rd or higher in every other statistical category, leading to the inconsistency and poor play that has prevented him from playing on the weekend. Even worse, he now sits 49th on the Reshuffle List, limiting his upcoming playing opportunities and forcing him to play well in whatever starts he gets on the west coast in early 2015.

Andrew Putnam
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$500,000

Putnam, the brother of current PGA Tour player Michael Putnam (who finished the 2013-2014 season 93rd in FedEx Cup points), used a victory at the WNB Golf Classic and a second at the season-opening Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship to finish the regular season second in money to clinch his PGA Tour card. He concluded the year with three other top-10s and 13 top-25 finishes in 22 starts. Ninth in putting average and ninth in scoring average on the Web.com Tour this past season, having his brother as a resource could help shorten the learning curve and get Putnam contending on the PGA Tour early on in the fall.

Post-Fall Outlook: Putnam had a solid fall, making every cut but one and getting a T12 at the McGladrey Classic. Somewhat concerning is the fact that his other three finishes in the money were all T33 or lower, but there's no reason why Putnam can't still have a solid year. The fact that he's 11th on the Reshuffle List puts him in great position to play well on the west coast.

Nick Taylor
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$450,000

Of the guys who made it through via the Web.com Tour Finals, Taylor might have the best story of them all. Dewsweeping in one of the first groups out, Taylor shot a 63 on the Dye Valley course at TPC Sawgrass in the final round of the Web.com Tour Championship to clinch his card, capping off a season in which he had no top-5 finishes but three top-30 finishes in the Web.com Tour Finals that gave him enough money to get a PGA Tour card. 11 missed cuts in 24 starts certainly doesn't have a nice look to it, and a Reshuffle List of 34th will make the road tougher, but that 63 did show that this guy has a lot of moxie.

Post-Fall Outlook: Taylor is in the best shape of any rookie, winning the Sanderson Farms Championship. It didn't give him a ticket to Augusta, but it did give him a two-year exemption and, most important, job security. If he can find his form early in 2015 he's a great fantasy pick, as he has all the motivation in the world to play well and make it to the Masters via one of the other exemption categories or through another victory.

Tony Finau
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$400,000

Finau is a former Big Break contestant - he finished second, losing in the championship match on season 12, Big Break: Disney Golf in 2009 - and will try to join Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey as the only Big Break alumni to win on the PGA Tour. He got to the PGA Tour by virtue of his victory at the Stonebrae Classic, which included middle rounds of 62-63, and four other top-10s. Averaging 310.3 yards off the tee and ranking ninth in the Web.com Tour all-around ranking, Finau is someone to watch in the fall because he ended the year on an up note: finishing T19-T46-T6-T14 over the course of the Web.com Tour Finals. If he can acclimate himself quickly to life on the PGA Tour, look for him to contend early.

Post-Fall Outlook: Finau has been one of the absolute stars of this PGA Tour season, wowing people with his long drives and solid overall game. He has finishes of T12-T7-T14-MC-T7, and at 14th in FedEx Cup points and more than $600K banked, he's now being mentioned as a contender in majors for 2015 - big thoughts for a PGA Tour rookie.

Blayne Barber
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$350,000

Barber is most known for his good sportsmanship after he disqualified himself from the first stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School in 2012 six days after play was completed after he was unsure he broke a rule while in a bunker. The golfing gods have a way of rewarding people who do the right thing, and less than two years later, Barber is now a PGA Tour rookie. (As that Golfweek Magazine article reminds us, Chesson Hadley, who got through only because Barber DQ'd himself, was the only PGA Tour rookie to win on tour in 2013-2014. He never makes it to the Web.com Tour for 2013 if Barber doesn't DQ himself.) This year on the Web.com Tour Barber used a win at the South Georgia Classic and a T3 at the BMW Charity Pro-Am two weeks later to help earn enough money to get his card. He finished the regular season seventh on the money list, and tacked on a T6 finish at the third Finals event to help his Reshuffle List position. With some more good fortune on his side, Barber could have a great chance to erase a lot of demons this season on the PGA Tour.

Post-Fall Outlook: Barber finished 2014 strong, with matching T9 finishes in both Jackson at the Sanderson Farms Championship and in Mexico. He's 54th in the FedEx Cup standings, eighth in the Reshuffle List standings and with nearly $265K already in the bank, Barber is on the verge of surpassing expectations. He's 46th in strokes gained–total and 59th in the all-around ranking.

Whee Kim
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$350,000

Kim, a 22-year old South Korean who turned pro in 2010, had a spotty Web.com Tour season. He came out of the gate fast with a T8 in his first start of the season in South America, but soon started to play inconsistently, mixing mid-level finishes with missed cuts. His only regular season top-10 came at the Cleveland Open in June, and needed a third place finish at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship to seal his card. A short hitter who averaged just 288.1 yards off the tee this season and was just 31st in the all-around ranking, Kim will need to be accurate off the tee and hit a lot of greens (think Zach Johnson) to succeed on the PGA Tour. He's got the talent to do it - in 2012 he led for two rounds at the PGA Tour Qualifying School and beat Kevin Na in a playoff at the Shinhan Donghae Open, an event which featured Paul Casey and Charlie Wi coming up just short of the playoff - so fantasy owners will want to keep tabs on him early and often.

Post-Fall Outlook: Kim struggled in fall, making only two of five cuts and accumulating just $20K. The culprit was poor driving accuracy (he ranks 234th) and poor iron play (202nd). Those lack of scoring chances are putting Kim behind the 8-ball, as does a 40th-place Reshuffle List standing that will hurt his playing opportunities come the west coast in 2015.

Mark Hubbard
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$300,000

Nine top-25s in 24 starts helped propel Hubbard to the PGA Tour, with a T2 at the United Leasing Championship his best performance of the season. Most impressive about Hubbard's season is probably the fact that he only missed the cut five times, something that if repeated next season on the PGA Tour, will do him a ton of good. Ranking 28th in the all-around ranking, his starting spot of 31st on the Reshuffle List will put him in a bit of a hole if he doesn't play well, but if he can rack up a bunch of mid-pack-at-worst finishes, he could start 2015 in a position of having a lot more starts on the west coast.

Post-Fall Outlook: Hubbard is 101st in the FedEx Cup standings and 20th on the Reshuffle List after a fall that saw him miss no cut and finish no better than 48th in any of the four times he did make the weekend. He's 170th in strokes gained-putting, further hurting his cause after being a solid 47th in strokes gained-tee to green.

Daniel Berger
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$300,000

Berger didn't get in the winner's circle during the 2014 Web.com Tour season but certainly came close, ending the year with a second and two thirds. The two thirds came in a three-week span, impressive stuff considering a MC was the middle result. Berger's Web.com Tour Finals was a bit spotty, as he only played three of the four events, going T19-MC-65. As a result, his Reshuffle List position is hurt, as he'll start the 2014-2015 PGA Tour season mid-pack, in 25th. The eighth longest hitter on tour who ranked 16th in greens in regulation this past season, Berger will need to make the rookie adjustment to the PGA Tour, get enough starts, and play well in those starts to have a successful season. It's a lot to ask, but is doable if he plays well enough.

Post-Fall Outlook: Berger struggled out of the gate, missing his first two cuts, but rebounded nicely, cashing a check in the next three, going T22-T51-T51. With about $70K in the bank and 99th in the FedEx Cup points standings he needs to pick up his play and improve on his tee-to-green play in 2015, as he ranks 146th in strokes gained–tee to green. He'll begin that quest 19th on the Reshuffle List.

Scott Pickney
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$275,000

Pickney peaked at the right time, and thus has a ticket on the PGA Tour. After an erratic opening part of his season, he finished T11 and T5 at the final two regular season events, and then went T25-T4-WD-T14 in the Finals. With the 2014-2015 PGA Tour season starting in just two weeks at the Frys.com Open, that's the kind of momentum that can propel someone into contention early and often. Another reason to like Pickney: he shot two 65s at the Web.com Tour Championship, when theoretically the pressure should have been at its highest.

Post-Fall Outlook: Pickney only made two of five cuts in fall and fell victim to the Saturday cut at Sea Island. His T31 at the Frys.com Open gave him most of his $43K that he's made so far, and with a strokes gained-tee to green ranking of 154th, Pickney will have some work to do in the offseason to get prepared for his limited playing opportunities before the next reshuffle in January and February 2015.

Jon Curran
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$200,000

Curran finished 12th on the regular season money list and enters the 2014-2015 PGA Tour season in 21st (out of 50) position on the Reshuffle List. He earned his PGA Tour card via a win at the Brasil Champions and two other top-10 finishes. He struggled for much of the summer, however, and missed the cut in 11 of his last 13 starts. As a result he's got little momentum heading into the fall, and would appear to be the perfect player to have a tough time making the immediate adjustment from the Web.com Tour to the PGA Tour. There's no doubt that Curran has a lot of talent, but as someone who finished 116th in the Web.com Tour all-around ranking, fantasy players should hold off on drafting or starting him in the fall until they see his play improve.

Post-Fall Outlook: Curran got off to a nice start with a T8 finish at the Frys.com Open to start the 2014-2015 PGA Tour season but has struggled since, missing three cuts and finishing T54 at the McGladrey Classic. He struggled with putting, which has him ranked 174th, while he sits 32nd in strokes gained–tee to green. He enters 2015 15th on the Reshuffle List.

Byron Smith
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$175,000

Smith found the winner's circle in late May at the Rex Hospital Open when he shot 63-66 on the weekend to seal his first victory. The very next week was his only other top-10 finish, a T8 at the Cleveland Open. Ranking 128th in total driving with nine missed cuts in 24 starts, Smith will need to improve on his consistency to succeed at the next level. In addition, with MC-T46-withdrawl-MC his line for the Web.com Tour Finals and a 39th starting spot on the Reshuffle List, fantasy owners may want to see improved play from Smith before starting him on their team.

Post-Fall Outlook: Smith got off to a nice start to his PGA Tour career with two finishes in the money - a T19 at the Frys.com Open and a 70th-place finish in Las Vegas - before ending the fall MC-withdraw-MC. That adds up to a 123rd ranking in the FedEx Cup points standings and a need to improve on all facets of his game. He finished fall ranked 145th in strokes gained-tee to green, 149th in strokes gained-putting and 164th in strokes gained-total.

Jonathan Randolph
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$150,000

Randolph also got close but didn't quite sniff the winner's circle in 2014 on the Web.com Tour. He had a second, two thirds, and a fourth en route to over $200,000 in earnings and a 27th place Reshuffle List position to start the 2014-2015 PGA Tour season. 120th in driving accuracy and 139th in greens in regulation last year on the Web.com Tour, however, Randolph will need to improve on his consistency to succeed on the PGA Tour. If that doesn't happen, it could be a long year and end in a trip right back to the Web.com Tour Finals.

Post-Fall Outlook: Randolph had an up-and-down fall, missing every other cut, with a T28 and T73 finish mixed in. That iron consistency weakness we wrote about in September still holds, as he's 187th in greens in regulation and 150th in proximity to the hole. At 32nd in the Reshuffle List standings, he'll need to improve his play fast in the limited playing opportunities he'll get on the west coast.

Tom Hoge
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$80,000

Hoge used the Web.com Tour Finals to seal his card for the 2014-2015 PGA Tour season after failing to get a top-10 finish on the Web.com Tour until July and having no top-5 finish until his third at the Chiquita Classic, the second Finals event. Overall he went T53-3-T22-T52 over the four Finals events, and will look to take that momentum into the fall. On the flipside, he's not overly impressive statistically, and the lack of a top-10 for the first half of the Web.com Tour season could spell trouble on the big stage. Fantasy owners need to be patient and see how Hoge plays.

Post-Fall Outlook: We spoke of Hoge having a slow start and a strong finish to the Web.com Tour season, and were wondering if any momentum would carry over to the PGA Tour. Well, while he hasn't contended for any wins, he has been in the money all but once, racking up three top-50 finishes in five starts. At more than $79K earned he's at what we projected him to earn all season. First in par-5 performance, Hoge has a chance to keep his card if he can improve his finishes by about 25 spots each week.

Roger Sloan
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$75,000

The good news: Sloan was a champion on the Web.com Tour in 2014, winning the Nova Scotia Open in a playoff. The bad news: it was his only top-10 finish of the season in 23 starts. He did make 14 cuts, yet had only four top-25s, and he's better than 31st in only two statistical categories. That lack of strong play across a wide swath of the year (he started his season in February) is troublesome. Keep an eye on him because he does have winning talent - he won in a playoff after all - but it could be a very streaky year as he adjusts.

Post-Fall Outlook: Sloan's inconsistent play from the Web.com Tour season carried over to the PGA Tour. He went MC-MC-T56 in the three events he played this fall and ranked a staggering 203rd in greens in regulation and 187th in strokes gained-putting. So far he's living up to expectations, and at 42nd in the Reshuffle List standings, he's looking at few playing opportunities on the west coast early next year.

Oscar Fraustro
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$75,000

Fraustro is proof that some awful play can be erased with some timely good finishes. He missed 13 of 22 cuts during the Web.com Tour regular season - with a T5 and T9 sprinkled in, and to make matters worse missed the cut in three of the four Web.com Tour Finals events. Yet the one event he did make the cut in was a T4 at the Chiquita Classic, good enough to have a 2014-2015 PGA Tour card. Though he was 10th in total driving on the Web.com Tour this season, his overall inconsistency will scare a lot of fantasy owners away and we recommend the same: stay away until you see Fraustro put together two consistent weeks.

Post-Fall Outlook: Fraustro only made three starts during fall, going MC-T43-T9. However, the top-10 finish was good enough to help him earn more than $153K and 81 FedEx Cup points, exceeding expectations and putting him in nice position to make a run early in 2015. At 18th in the Reshuffle List, Fraustro should have more playing opportunities to improve on his position. Concerning, however, is the fact that he's no better than 79th in any key statistical category.

Sung Joon Park
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$45,000

Park had a kind of odd year. In 15 events he made 8 cuts, but was either really good - he had a T3 in February and a T5 in June - or really bad, missing six cuts and being disqualified once. But a T14-T11 finish at the last two Web.com Tour Finals events gave him a PGA Tour card, and a chance to make it on the big stage. Not in his favor is a 42nd Reshuffle List position, which means the first reshuffle period is crucial for him to play well, improve his position, and thus have more playing opportunities for the first part of the 2015 portion of the season.

Post-Fall Outlook: Park only made three starts in 2014-15 but made the cut in all three, finishing T32-T66-T56 and starting his PGA Tour career earning money every time out, which is an important accomplishment. At $50K earned he's already past our projection, and now he needs to improve on those finishes to ensure a PGA Tour card for next season. Improving his putting (he's 172nd in strokes gained-putting) would be a good first step.

Carlos Sainz Jr
2014-15 Proj. Earnings:
$45,000

The good news for Sainz: he's got a 2014-2015 PGA Tour card. The bad news: he's next to last on the Reshuffle List, meaning he has little control over his schedule and is at the mercy of veterans for how many playing opportunities he gets. He's a talented guy - he tied for second at the Price Cutter Charity Championship and finished three of the four Web.com Tour Finals events in the top 31 - but is ranked no better than 48th in any major statistical category and has his back up against the wall at the very start of the season. Play well early, however, and that all changes.

Post-Fall Outlook: Sainz was hot and cold in fall, only making three starts that featured two missed cuts with a T9 finish at the Sanderson Farms Championship sandwiched in the middle. That gave him exactly $100K, doubling our projection and putting him in a position to have a nice season if he can improve his consistency. Still 35th in the Reshuffle List standings, Sainz will need to capitalize on every playing opportunity he gets out of the gate in 2015.