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Monday, November 28, 2011

Nationwide Tour Graduate Projections

PGATour.com Columnist Rob Bolton does an annual prediction of where the Nationwide Tour and Q School graduates will finish the following PGA Tour season.  This years Nationwide Tour Graduate Projection  by Bolton can be found at http://www.pgatour.com/2011/r/11/28/nwt-graduate-fantasy-projections/index.html .  He places the 25 players in three categories based on where he thinks they will finish on the PGA Tour Money List.  Top 125 (retaining their card), 126-150 (partially exempt), and 151+.  Last year Bolton was 9 for 25 with his biggest miss being Keegan Bradley (projected 151+, but won 2 tournaments including the PGA Championship).  Nine of last years class acheived the top 125, but this years class doesn't appear to be as strong.

I will list this year's 25 graduates along with Bolton's predictions and then my predictions.  I highly encourage you to check out Bolton's article and explanations as to why he's made the predictions he's made.  He and I weigh many of the variables to success similarly.  When I make my pics I will factor in a number of things.  Here are some of the things I look for.

  • Consistant play through the year, and not just a couple of hot weeks
  • Experience on the PGA Tour and how it trended
  • Tournament winners and the tournaments they won including the past champions at those venues and how they faired on the PGA Tour
  • Ranking in terms of West Coast starts.....its a disadvantage to be 20-25 on this list because it means less starts before the re-shuffle.
  • Ball striking, inparticular Greens in Regulation......putting and short game can save you more on the Nationwide Tour than it can on the PGA Tour.  There's a lot more trouble both off the tee and around the greens that make scrambling harder on the PGA Tour.
  • Pedigree
  • Intangibles

Here are the players in order of 2011 Money List finish
  1. JJ Killeen - Bolton - Top 125 / TGA - 126-150....He will get a lot of starts, which might save him, but it took him several years on the Nationwide Tour to make a leap forward.  I think 2013 will be his year after a respectable 2012.
  2. Ted Potter Jr - Bolton 126-150 / TGA Top 125.....This is a very tough one to pick....Potter's won a ton on the Hooters Tour and this year on the Nationwide Tour but did not play well at all his first few cycles on the Nationwide Tour.  He could get off to a slow start and lose is confidence or he could win twice next year.  He's also got a little Tommy Gainey feel to him.
  3. Matthew Goggin - Bolton Top 125 / TGA Top 125.....Veteran player...had a nice year on the Nationwide Tour.  Normally 7 to 10 players from the Nationwide Tour will stick any given year and he's as good a pick as any.
  4. Jason Kokrak - Bolton 126-150 / TGA Top 125....Very similar to Potter in his mini tour success and converting that into wins on the Nationwide Tour.  Bomber with nice GIR numbers too.  Gary Woodland?
  5. Jonas Blixt - Bolton Top 125 / TGA 151+.....Stats don't back my prediction up, but it's just a gut feeling.  Not too many guys that rely that heavily on the putter have an easy go of it. 
  6. Danny Lee - Bolton Top 125 / TGA Top 125.....This is a slam dunk pick.  From a pedigree and pure talent standpoint easily the top of this class.  Think Jason Day a couple of years ago.
  7. Ken Duke - Bolton 126-150 / TGA 151+.....Bolton's pick is more fact based than mine, but I have a hard time putting someone making a PGA Tour return in their 40's in a higher category.  This may be one of those picks I kick myself on in 10 months (or sooner).
  8. Scott Brown - Bolton 151+ / TGA 151+.....Bolton's analysis is dead on.  I have a hard time buying into a guy that probably got to where he was on the money list by making every possible start.  Couple that with no PGA Tour experience and I don't see it as a good combination.
  9. Gary Christian - Bolton 151+ / TGA 151+......Nothing to add to what Bolton says really.  A 40 year old PGA rookie who has been a steady, but not spectacular career Nationwider.  Nothing jumps off the page to make you think he will do anything noteworthy.
  10. Miguel Carballo - Bolton 151+ / TGA 151+.....Been fully exempt on the Nationwide Tour for 5 years, but the three years prior to 2011 only had 1 top 10 total.  Not consistant enough unless he has a week where he catches lighting in a bottle; and he better convert that week to a top 3, not just a top 10.
  11. Troy Kelly - Bolton 151+ / TGA 151+.....I just don't trust him after a bad PGA Tour stint a few years ago and some pretty nice circumstances helping his money total in 2011.
  12. Russell Knox - Bolton 151 + / TGA 126 to 150....I like him a lot more than Bolton seems to.  He's a very consistent player who has played well on the Hooters Tour and seized the opportunity in California on a tougher golf course when it presented itself.  Also won in a birdie fest later in the year.  I think he will play tougher golf courses a little better than many of the other graduates, but Bolton may be right about inexpereince catching up with him.
  13. Erik Compton - Bolton 126 to 150 / TGA 151+.....All I can say is I hope I'm wrong.  If you don't know his story, Compton is a former college star as well as a two time heart transplant recipient.  One of several feel good stories for next year.
  14. John Mallinger - Bolton Top 125 / TGA 151+......Bolton really likes him, but I'm not convinced.  His best finish is at a defunct tournament that used to play opposite of The Open Championship and I think Bolton is placing too much emphasis on his Nationwide Tour record this year and not enough on his PGA Tour performances the last 2 years.
  15. Kyle Thompson - Bolton 126 to 150 / TGA Top 125.....This pick makes no sense, but there's always a couple of surprises.  Plays out of the same club in Greenville, SC as Bill Haas and Lucas Glover amoung others, so maybe some of that will rub off.
  16. Kyle Reifers - Bolton 151+ / TGA 126 to 150......For some reason TGA always expects Reifers to be a little better than he's turned out, so maybe this will be the year some of that cashes in.  He could be a guy 3 years down the road where everyone says "where did he come from?"
  17. Gavin Coles - Bolton 151 + / TGA 151+......Bolton nailed it.  Too few courses he can be relevant on due to length.
  18. Matt Every - Bolton Top 125 / TGA Top 125....he's got the pedigree and he's bounced around,  but he (along with Lee and Kokrak) probably has the potential to be a guy 10 years down the road with 4 to 6 wins and a very successful career.
  19. Daniel Chopra - Bolton 151+ / TGA 126 to 150.....I don't know how you figure Chopra out.  If it wasn't for his putter he would have won about 3 more times than he did in the mid to late 2000's but now he's kind of a wild card.  I wouldn't be surprised if he finished 19th with 2 wins or 205th, so I'll take a shot in the dark somewhere in the middle.
  20. Steve Wheatcroft - Bolton 151+ / TGA 126 to 150....Improved from 206th to 166th on the money list from his first to second season.  Trend suggests he may move that up a little more this time.  It's starting to get to the point to where you have to be a little worried about his number and how many early events he'll get into.
  21. Garth Mulroy - Bolton 126-150 / TGA Top 125....I'm basing this heavily off of one factor.  People who play well at the BMW Pro AM historically do well on the PGA Tour.  Maybe it has something to do with all the different courses in the rotation.
  22. Mark Anderson - Bolton 151+ / TGA 151+.....Tough number coming out and no PGA Tour experience.  Will probably make some cuts and earn a nice living but not good enough to hang on to status.
  23. Roberto Castro - Bolton 151+ / TGA 151+......see Mark Anderson
  24. Martin Flores - Bolton 151+ / TGA 151+....past PGA Tour experience and a bad number doesn't give me much confidence.
  25. Billy Hurley III - Bolton 151+ / TGA 151+....If memory serves, the Naval Academy grad received one of his PGA Tour starts from The King at Bay Hill and played Admirably (pun intended).  Unlike most people in his spot on the money list, I think Bolton's right about sponsors exemptions.  He might eek into the 126 to 150 category and that would be fine with me.
Total Stats: Bolton - Top 125 (6) / 126 to 150 (6) / 151+ (13)
                  TGA - Top 125 (7) / 126 to 150 (5) / 151+ (13)

Final thoughts:  For some reason, this group doesn't look like one of the stronger ones to come off the Nationwide Tour.  I only see 3 potential long term stars in Danny Lee, (Top 10 in the world potential / multiple wins and possible Major Champion), Jason Kokrak (in a Bubba Watson / J.B Holmes / Gary Woodland way) and Matt Every (a few wins over a 10 year span).  Maybe one day Ted Potter.


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