2022-23 Golf Draft Kit: Sleepers & Busts

2022-23 Golf Draft Kit: Sleepers & Busts

This article is part of our Golf Draft Kit series.

SLEEPERS

Hayden Buckley

Buckley was able to make the move from the Korn Ferry Tour to the FedExCup Playoffs. His two best finishes came earlier in the season at the Sanderson Farms and Shriners Open in the form of a T4 and T8, respectively. After an inconsistent spring, Buckley closed the season strong by making the cut in seven of his last eight starts. The 26-year-old's ball-striking impressed on the KFT in 2020-21 and as a rookie last season ranking top-15 on the PGA Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee, total driving, driving accuracy and GIR percentage. The putting is a bit of a work in progress, but those ball-striking numbers will make his floor pretty high. Really all Buckley needs is a few positive strokes gained putting weeks to make it from 104th in the FedExCup Standings to that new top-70 threshold -- and potentially even more. 

— Ryan Andrade

Taylor Montgomery

Every year now, we see guys emerge from the Korn Ferry Tour to make a dent on the PGA Tour: Will Zalatoris, Cameron Young, Davis Riley and Mito Pereira, to name a few. They arrive ready to go. Frankly, the KF Tour is probably now the second best Tour in the world in terms of talent. Montgomery could be the next one, because the PGA Tour simply does not have enough Taylors. He's little older than the others, 27, as he gets his card for the first time. He finished fifth in the KF regular season

SLEEPERS

Hayden Buckley

Buckley was able to make the move from the Korn Ferry Tour to the FedExCup Playoffs. His two best finishes came earlier in the season at the Sanderson Farms and Shriners Open in the form of a T4 and T8, respectively. After an inconsistent spring, Buckley closed the season strong by making the cut in seven of his last eight starts. The 26-year-old's ball-striking impressed on the KFT in 2020-21 and as a rookie last season ranking top-15 on the PGA Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee, total driving, driving accuracy and GIR percentage. The putting is a bit of a work in progress, but those ball-striking numbers will make his floor pretty high. Really all Buckley needs is a few positive strokes gained putting weeks to make it from 104th in the FedExCup Standings to that new top-70 threshold -- and potentially even more. 

— Ryan Andrade

Taylor Montgomery

Every year now, we see guys emerge from the Korn Ferry Tour to make a dent on the PGA Tour: Will Zalatoris, Cameron Young, Davis Riley and Mito Pereira, to name a few. They arrive ready to go. Frankly, the KF Tour is probably now the second best Tour in the world in terms of talent. Montgomery could be the next one, because the PGA Tour simply does not have enough Taylors. He's little older than the others, 27, as he gets his card for the first time. He finished fifth in the KF regular season standings. He's had five runners-up over the past two seasons. What we like is mostly his short game -- second in putting and third in scrambling on the KF tour this season -- but he's also among the longest hitters, ranking 15th in driving distance. That's a pretty good combination to have. Montgomery has had only a few PGA Tour starts, one of them being T11 at Torrey Pines last January. Last year's Sleeper pick for me -- sticking with the Taylor theme -- was Taylor Moore. Moore finished 67th in the FedExCup Standings, and it's easy to see a similar result for Montgomery.

— Len Hochberg

Taylor Pendrith

As a 31-year-old rookie this past season, Pendrith was overshadowed by stellar first-year showings from his younger counterparts as the likes of Cameron Young, Sahith Theegala, Davis Riley, Mito Pereira and eventually Tom Kim stole the spotlight. But, the elder Canadian crept his way into a top-50 finish in the FedExCup Standings with only five missed cuts and $2.33 million in official earnings, all despite a midseason rib injury that limited him to just 21 total starts. He essentially missed four months after posting a top-15 result at THE PLAYERS Championship in March, but upon his return in early July, Pendrith picked up right where he left off, posting five top-15s in six outings from the Barbasol Championship through the BMW Championship. Throughout his last eight starts of the season -- a sample that includes both pre and post-injury data -- Pendrith averaged 3.2 strokes gained off the tee per event with a low of 2.1 SG: OTT and a coefficient of variation of just 0.31 during this stretch, which showcases real driving consistency and not just a couple outliers inflating an entire range. He also gained at least 3.5 strokes with his irons in half of these eight recent tournaments, and he ranked 30th on Tour in approach proximity from the fairway throughout the 2021-22 campaign. Pendrith is not a good putter, but he's still flashed the ability to enjoy an occasional spike week with the flat stick, which is what we like to see when projecting ceiling outcomes for such a good ball-striker. It's similar to the case of Collin Morikawa, who's outside the top 125 on Tour in SG: Putting, but still capable of these fairly random spike weeks with the putter, which have typically translated to wins and runner-up efforts for him when paired with that ball-striking upside. When Pendrith gained 4.6 strokes putting at the Rocket Mortgage Classic this summer, it ended with a T2 finish. For an alternative example, when a player that lacks ball-striking upside like Denny McCarthy gains 4.9 strokes putting at the Charles Schwab Challenge, he fails to even crack the top 25. Pendrith managed to rank 26th in birdie average among his peers, despite finishing the season just 157th in putting from inside 10 feet. Additionally, Pendrith's Round 1-3 scoring average (69.52) was more than an entire stroke better than his Round 4 scoring average (70.60), so he'll hopefully become more comfortable with the pressure of playing on Sunday afternoons in Year 2 as he seeks his maiden victory.

— Bryce Danielson

Thomas Pieters

Pieters has the talent and distance to compete on any golf course in the world. Watch him hit a few tee shots with the shot tracer on, and you'll see why he finds himself in this spot. His attitude has held him back in the past, but the 30-year-old matured considerably in 2022. If he continues improving his mental approach and putting himself in contention on weekends, he could be well-positioned for a breakthrough campaign. Pieters made the cut in three of four majors this past season and looked excellent in the process. His best major finishes were T27 and T28 at the U.S. Open and Open Championship, respectively.

— Joe Szmadzinski

Callum Tarren

Tarren's PGA Tour career could not have started worse. He failed to make the cut in his first eight starts this past season and didn't see the weekend until February. He managed to pick up three top-10s during his rookie season, which was enough to vault him into the top 125 by season's end. The reason I'm optimistic about Tarren is the way he closed this past season, with four top-25s in his final seven starts. He also showed well at the U.S. Open on his way to a T31.

— Greg Vara

Davis Thompson

The 23-year-old Thompson will be a rookie on Tour this season after getting his card through the Korn Ferry Tour, where he won this summer and finished 14th on the regular season points list. The former Georgia Bulldog had a stellar career before turning professional, winning SEC Player of the Year and holding the top spot in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. He's seen a brief glimpse of the PGA Tour, receiving three starts last season in which he made two cuts and gained strokes on approach in all three tournaments. The strength of his game is his ball striking, as in addition to his aforementioned iron play, he ranked fifth in driving distance on the KFT in 2022. After a season where we saw many KFT graduates make an immediate impact on the big stage, Thompson has the upside to continue that trend.

— Ryan Pohle

BUSTS

Lucas Herbert

A three-time winner across the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, Herbert climbed as high as 40th in the Official World Golf Ranking earlier in 2022, just a couple months after his most recent victory at the 2021 Bermuda Championship during the fall series. The 26-year-old Australian also bolstered his reputation with multiple top-15 performances in majors this year, placing T13 at the PGA Championship and T15 at the Open on the way to a 44th-place finish in the final FedExCup standings. Statistically, he was the best putter on the planet as he ranked second to none in SG: Putting, one-putt percentage and putts per round. But, how sustainable is Herbert's reliance on the flat stick? He's a horrible iron player, finishing the 2021-22 campaign ranked 192nd in SG: Approach and 193rd in GIR percentage. He posted a positive SG: APP performance in a measured event just ONCE in all of 2022. And he was just as bad with his wedges as he was with his irons, sitting 187th in proximity from 50-125 yards. The concerns with Herbert's ball striking don't stop there, when we also consider the fact that he's extremely inaccurate off the tee at 188th in driving accuracy. A scorching-hot putter might be enough to carry him to a couple solid finishes here and there, but what price are you really willing to pay for someone who ranks directly between Dawie Van Der Walt and Brandon Hagy in SG: Tee-to-Green over their past 50 measured rounds?

— Bryce Danielson

Tom Hoge

Hoge is coming off an incredible season where he picked up one win, one runner-up and six total top-10s. It was his 8th season on the PGA Tour and nothing leading up to this season would have indicated that this type of season was coming. At 33 years old, it's possible that he simply just figured everything out, but considering his previous best earnings number was sub-$2 million and he earned over $4 million this past season, I'm going to chalk it up to a fluke. I don't expect Hoge to fall off the map this season, but I can't envision him producing anything close to what he did this past season.

— Greg Vara

Viktor Hovland

Was a top-10 OWGR golfer for much of 2022. He sat 11th at the end of the season. If you are among the worst golfers at any one discipline, it's hard to be a great golfer. Hovland has come pretty close despite being a terrible chipper, ranked nearly 200th in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green. He's won a few titles, though never in the United States and never in a quality field. He has one top-10 in 12 career majors -- at the 2022 Open Championship where chipping was not required. Hovland won't miss many cuts because the rest of his game is world-class, but we should see a drop in his world ranking as the 2022-23 season wears on.

— Len Hochberg

Zach Johnson

Johnson's game has experienced some troubling declines of late, and the 46-year-old might likely admit that 2022 was his worst year on Tour. After having never missed more than half of his cuts in a given season, he failed to make the weekend at over 55 percent of his events this year. Moreover, his average finishing place fell from 48.3 to 74.8. 2023 has the potential to be even worse than 2022. Johnson simply just doesn't hit it far enough to contend on many of the Tour's longer setups these days. Hopefully he's able to find a late career renaissance as some of his peers have, but he isn't currently trending in the right direction.

— Joe Szmadzinski

Kevin Kisner

Kisner is coming off another solid season in which he finished top-40 in the FedEx Cup Standings for a fourth consecutive season that was highlighted by a runner-up finish in the Match Play event. There are reasons to be skeptical of him going into this season, however, as he ranked outside the top-150 in both strokes-gained off-the-tee and approach. He's also on a downward trend as during the second half of the season, he only saw the weekend in four of his last 11 events. While I don't think he'll completely fall off the map, he's far too reliant on his short game for my liking, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him be on the bubble for the playoffs next season with the field size being reduced to 70 players.

— Ryan Pohle

Sepp Straka

Imagine telling someone before last season that Straka was going to make nearly $5 million on the PGA Tour in one year. It was really just a case of good timing for Straka because if you look at the stats, there were a lot of guys who played better golf than him last season that did not even make the playoffs. Straka outlasted the field at the Honda Classic for his first PGA Tour victory. He then added a T3 at the RBC Heritage before an incredibly disappointing few months that saw him finish outside the top-70 in 10 of 11 starts, including eight missed cuts. Right after that came a heartbreaking playoff loss at the first playoff event, but that bought him enough points to easily cruise to East Lake. Straka ranked 117th in SG: Total and 133rd in scoring average for the season. Even with him getting into all the elevated events next season, getting to half of his earnings from 2021-22 seems like a major stretch with how inconsistently he strikes the ball.

— Ryan Andrade

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Ryan  Andrade
Ryan has covered golf and college basketball for RotoWire since 2016. He has also written articles for ProGolfNow.com.
Bryce Danielson
Bryce covers the PGA for RotoWire and provides input on the golf cheat sheet. He also contributes to the coverage for NFL, NBA and other sports.
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years. He was named 2020 "DFS Writer of the Year" by the FSWA and was nominated for the same award in 2019.
Ryan Pohle
Ryan Pohle is a DFS Product Specialist at RotoWire and has written for the site since 2020.
Joseph Szmadzinski
Joseph Szmadzinski is a golf and soccer contributor. He played golf at Bucknell University (2013). When not at the office, he enjoys spending time on the golf course, playing tennis and watching whatever games are on.
Greg Vara
Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the FSWA Golf Writer of the Year in 2005 and 2013. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.
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