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Culp's Corner

Early-Season Stat Leaders

by Josh Culp
Updated On: November 6, 2019, 11:06 am ET

It's a rare week on the calendar with no PGA TOUR action. 

With no tournaments to prep for I thought it'd be a good time to look back on the early-season stats to generate some names that might be ready for a big 2020 campaign. 

Without further ado, let's dive right in... 

Total Strokes Gained

You can look at the PGATOUR.com stat pages to see who is gaining the most strokes per round but they only use measured rounds (events with ShotLink tracking). Kind of funny since SG:Total is easy to calculate with or without the advanced tracking. 

Here are the 20 golfers that gained the most total strokes over the field's they've faced:

Lanto Griffin: 48.5 strokes gained
Sungjae Im: 39.4 strokes gained
Hideki Matsuyama: 39 strokes gained
Denny McCarthy: 35.9 strokes gained
Harris English: 34.7 strokes gained
Sebastian Munoz: 30.9 strokes gained
Justin Thomas: 29.9 strokes gained
Mark Hubbard: 28.4 strokes gained
Byeong Hun An: 27.8 strokes gained
Rory McIlroy: 27.7 strokes gained
Carlos Ortiz: 27.1 strokes gained
Brian Gay: 26.9 strokes gained
Corey Conners: 26.8 strokes gained
Scottie Scheffler: 25.9 strokes gained
Joaquin Niemann: 24.2 strokes gained
Bronson Burgoon: 24.2 strokes gained
Xander Schauffele: 23.7 strokes gained
Kevin Na: 22.9 strokes gained
Xinjun Zhang: 22.8 strokes gained
Brian Harman: 21.6 strokes gained

Notes: These are raw, unadjusted to field strength but they can still tell us plenty.

The man at the top is also the FedExCup leader, so the system is doing its job so far.

Some interesting names include Harris English and Brian Harman who had really took a step back over the last few years but are trending back up. 

Other notables include Mark Hubbard, Carlos Ortiz, and Xinjun Zhang who had their troubles during previous stints on the big stage but are off to a strong start this season. Definitely some names to watch to see if they can maintain their current pace.

Strokes Gained per Round

We just looked at total strokes gained but what about on a per-round basis? Isolating to golfers that have played 10 rounds or more this season, here are the top performers: 

Justin Thomas: 2.5 strokes gained per round
Harris English: 2.2 strokes gained per round
Hideki Matsuyama: 2.2 strokes gained per round
Lanto Griffin: 2 strokes gained per round
Denny McCarthy: 1.8 strokes gained per round
Gary Woodland: 1.8 strokes gained per round
Bryson DeChambeau: 1.7 strokes gained per round
Sebastian Munoz: 1.7 strokes gained per round
Sungjae Im: 1.6 strokes gained per round
Brian Harman: 1.5 strokes gained per round
Carlos Ortiz: 1.5 strokes gained per round
Corey Conners: 1.5 strokes gained per round
Ryan Palmer: 1.5 strokes gained per round
Richy Werenski: 1.5 strokes gained per round
Aaron Wise: 1.4 strokes gained per round
Cameron Champ: 1.4 strokes gained per round
Joaquin Niemann: 1.3 strokes gained per round
Brian Gay: 1.3 strokes gained per round
Bronson Burgoon: 1.3 strokes gained per round
Scottie Scheffler: 1.3 strokes gained per round
 

Notes: Justin Thomas let us know that his wrist injury is a thing of the past. He looks primed for another monster season. 

Cameron Champ also flashed back onto the radar with a win in Napa and two other top 30s. Does he just love the fall or is his game (and health) really back to being a top-tier fantasy option? To be determined. 

Strokes Gained Consistency

There were 16 golfers this fall that played at least 10 rounds and beat the field average in at least 75 percent of those rounds played: 

Bronson Burgoon: 83.3 percent
Ryan Palmer: 83.3 percent
Harris English: 81.3 percent
Denny McCarthy: 80 percent
Bryson DeChambeau: 80 percent
Richy Werenski: 80 percent
Lanto Griffin: 79.2 percent
Byeong Hun An: 79.2 percent
Hideki Matsuyama: 77.8 percent
Dylan Frittelli: 77.8 percent
Mark Hubbard: 77.3 percent
Charles Howell III: 75 percent
Russell Henley: 75 percent
Justin Thomas: 75 percent
Gary Woodland: 75 percent
Viktor Hovland: 75 percent

Notes: Mr Burgoon and Palmer? I would have never had guessed those names if you gave me 500 guesses. 

However, looking at the form, Burgoon rallied at the end of the season with three top 20s in four starts (two on the Korn Ferry Tour). He's maintained that momentum with top 20s in 3-of-5 starts this season. Could we see him finally crack the winner's circle before the 2020 season is over?

As for Ryan Palmer, he's played three events and finished T37, T12, and T10. The 43-year-old still has some tricks up his sleeve. 

Greens in Regulation

There have been nine tournaments this season with varying ease of landing greens in regulation. Let's see the list of golfers that have pelted at least 250 greens in regulation so far: 

Lanto Griffin: 304 GIR
Sungjae Im: 304 GIR
Bo Hoag: 300 GIR
Byeong Hun An: 300 GIR
Doc Redman: 294 GIR
Xinjun Zhang: 287 GIR
Brian Stuard: 285 GIR
Mark Hubbard: 281 GIR
Scottie Scheffler: 271 GIR
Denny McCarthy: 270 GIR
Charles Howell III: 266 GIR
Harold Varner III: 262 GIR
Adam Schenk: 262 GIR
Lucas Glover: 256 GIR
Brian Gay: 255 GIR
Hideki Matsuyama: 250 GIR
Adam Long: 250 GIR

Notes: These golfers are going to really pop for weekly gamers looking for upside plays. The thought process is "they can find loads of greens, they just need to catch a hot putter for one or two rounds." If we look at the Total GIR leaders from last season we find Conners, Howell III, Piercy, Laird, and Streelman at the top. 

Denny McCarthy is very appealing here because he's known for his elite putting skills. If he maintains this level of ball-striking then a win or two could certainly be in the cards in 2020. 

Par Breakers

Birdies and Eagles are a huge part of fantasy scoring so let's have a look at who has converted on the most birdies and eagles so far this season: 

Sungjae Im: 115 par breakers
Lanto Griffin: 112 par breakers
Byeong Hun An: 106 par breakers
Denny McCarthy: 104 par breakers
Maverick McNealy: 102 par breakers
Xinjun Zhang: 102 par breakers
Scottie Scheffler: 100 par breakers
Brian Gay: 98 par breakers
Doc Redman: 96 par breakers
Mark Hubbard: 94 par breakers
Harold Varner III: 90 par breakers
Cameron Smith: 88 par breakers
Hideki Matsuyama: 87 par breakers
Beau Hossler: 86 par breakers
Dominic Bozzelli: 86 par breakers
Adam Long: 86 par breakers

Notes: Early-season par breakers don't guarantee success later in the year, but these golfers have been a goldmine for DFS gamers this season, so keep an eye on their form and keep investing while the birdies are falling. 

Early-Season Standouts

One name that kept popping up on these lists was Hideki Matsuyama. He has beaten the field average by 3 or more strokes in 7-of-18 rounds played this season. That matches Sebastian Munoz for best ratio in the field, of golfers that played more than 10 rounds. When you account for field strength, Matsuyama's numbers are a bit more impressive. We saw injuries and dad life derail his career progression a bit but he's playing like a top-10 golfer in the world again and that should result in one or two wins before the season is over. 

I briefly mentioned Harris English earlier but I want to highlight him again. The Georgia Bulldog was a steady performer early in his career but he fell off the rails in 2017. Just from watching shot tracking, it seemed like he was throwing away a few shots per round with errant drives. If we look at his driving accuracy numbers, that checks out. From 2014 to 2016 he hit more fairways than the field in roughly 41% of his rounds played. That number plummeted to 28.9% during the 2016-17 campaign. English bounced back and has actually made that a strength of his game and he's hit more fairways than the field in 68.8% of his rounds played this season. Sure, the sample is small, but the driving aspect of his game if finally back to normal and that's bleeding confidence into the rest of his game. English should be a good name to target for the foreseeable future while his confidence is still soaring. 

Mark Hubbard had played three full seasons on TOUR before this year and boasted a cuts-made record of 50-for-82 (61%). He's improved that ratio this season with a 5-for-6 start that includes his first (and second) career top 10s. A remarkable feat when you consider that he's beat the field average in driving distance in just three career events. Hubbard currently ranks 146th in driving distance this season. Gamers should continue to invest while the irons are hot (especially during the fall swing while the courses are generally short and easy) but it might be tough for him to keep up with the bigger hitters all season long. 

One name that didn't show up on a lot of lists above due to sample size but deserves a shoutout is Rory McIlroy. He's gained the 10th most strokes total this season despite playing just 8 rounds. His shift to stoicism has him in a great place mentally and it's showing on the course. There is no doubt in my mind that he's easily the best golfer in the world right now. 

I hope these lists have given you some names to monitor this season and possibly invest in when the TOUR returns to action next week in Mexico. 

 

 

Josh Culp
Josh Culp joined Rotoworld in 2014. The DFS enthusiast from Iowa State can be found on Twitter @futureoffantasy.