Fantasy projections for the 2012 q-school graduates

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December 07, 2012
Rob Bolton

Behold the final graduating class from Qualifying School as we've known it for decades.

Twenty-six navigated three rounds at each of two courses at PGA West, posting 17-under 415 or lower to secure fully exempt status in 2013. The fortunate few includes Brad Fritsch, who was one of seven Web.com Tour grads in the field. As you'll read below, he improved his number in the opening reshuffle and earned an upgrade in my projection.

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What THE 25 Web.com Tour graduates lacked in depth, the q-school survivors fulfill. Fifteen have held status on the PGA TOUR before, while others like Ross Fisher and Patrick Reed are already household names despite their rookie status next year.

Of last year's 29 q-school grads, two won tournaments (John Huh, Charlie Beljan), 11 more finished inside the top 125 on the money list and yet another five placed inside the top 150. Bob Estes also met the terms of his medical extension to climb outside the reshuffle.

My projections below are conservative. I have only five cracking the top 125 in earnings with 12 finishing 126-150 on the money list. The one-time compressed schedule influences those totals a bit, but the bigger unknown is how those above the reshuffle will adjust as a result. TOUR officials have been preparing for months to open up opportunities to eliminate concern over playing time for the graduates, so it stands to reason that it won't be an issue. Yet, fantasy value is relative and we need to address the facts as we know them now.

Remember that at the conclusion of the West Coast Swing, all graduates will be reshuffled in order of earnings. Those at the bottom will be limited in starts, so there is more pressure to perform, thus diminishing fantasy value.

In the player capsules below, "Rob's Riff" includes my opinion, sometimes pointed, on where fantasy gamers need to position themselves accordingly. My goal is to put you in the position of making an intelligent decision with conviction, even if you disagree. The clarity will help with your direction and philosophy as a fantasy owner. Ages are listed as of Jan. 1, 2013. Official World Golf Rankings are as of Dec. 2, 2012.

Dong-hwan Lee • Rookie • 25
Official World Golf Ranking: 224

2013 fantasy projection: 126-150
Rob's Riff: As a regular on the Japan Golf Tour where he's won twice and was dubbed Rookie of the Year in 2006, he doesn't usually tee it up in competition until April when that circuit begins its season. Then again, he's only two years removed from a two-year military commitment for his native South Korea, so there isn't too much normal to him in terms of scheduling. Sitting atop the opening reshuffle certainly has its perks, but none of the last five medalists has finished inside the top 105 in earnings and only two qualified for the FedExCup Playoffs; both failed to advance to the second round. Of course, the dearth of success by the guy in this slot has no bearing on Lee, but he'd ranked last in terms of experience in the U.S. among the group. At worst, he'll give you a full schedule at the bottom of rosters in deep formats.

Ross Fisher • Rookie • 32
Official World Golf Ranking: 93

2013 fantasy projection: Top 125
Rob's Riff: It's hard to believe but the Englishman plunged to as low as 157th in the world ranking before rebounding. Until May 2011, he spent nearly three years comfortably inside the top 50. He gets the benefit of the doubt based on cachet, but expect a thin schedule as he juggles full-time membership on the European Tour. We may not see him in the U.S. until February since he's decided to play the Desert Swing instead. So, not only does he still need to qualify for majors and World Golf Championships, but others in the reshuffle will get a head start on earnings on the PGA TOUR.

Steve LeBrun • Rookie • 34
Official World Golf Ranking: 569

2013 fantasy projection: 126-150
Rob's Riff: The 18-hole leader at q-school welcomed his second daughter into the world the day before the second stage started, so it's been a whirlwind the last few weeks, albeit well worth it. Finished 56th on the Web.com Tour money list this year. Only cut made in three career starts on the PGA TOUR was a T46 at the 2012 U.S. Open. Possesses the modern attack of power and precision tee-to-green, but he's a very average putter, so he'd be likely to emerge on leaderboards at shootouts (like q-school). Calculated flier given his lofty perch in the opening reshuffle.

Billy Horschel • 26
Official World Golf Ranking: 299

2013 fantasy projection: Top 125
Rob's Riff: Dogged by a wrist injury and partial status the last couple of years, I love that he's fully exempt again. Now, he'll need to get off to a hot start to retain his value, but that shouldn't be an issue given how he performed throughout the year and capped it off at q-school. His cachet precedes him, so he rises above the sleeper label, but gamers that invest only in past success will mistakenly pass over on this former college star. Salary gamers should plug him in immediately.

Kris Blanks • 40
Official World Golf Ranking: 285

2013 fantasy projection: 126-150
Rob's Riff: Solid q-school comeback from a shoulder injury that ended his season in July. Made only 23 starts as a result and finished 161st on the money list, $257,451 outside the top 125. If he's given a medical extension (regardless of Major or Minor) and then meets its terms, he'll be promoted to the Major Medical category, which is exempt from the reshuffle. Of course, the concern is for a relapse of what he classifies as a "labrum issue" on his left side. He's not worth the risk in salary games, but consider riding out his medical before reassessing.

Richard H. Lee • 25
Official World Golf Ranking: 328

2013 fantasy projection: Top 125
Rob's Riff: The 2013 season can't arrive soon enough for the PGA TOUR sophomore. After a largely forgettable first seven months of his rookie campaign, he flipped a switch that produced three consecutive top 15s from August-October en route to finishing 138th on the money list. (That stretch also included a T22 and a T2 on the Web.com Tour during the FedExCup Playoffs.) Now a q-school grad for the second straight year, his confidence has to be soaring even though he ran out of steam in the Fall Series. He'll be a horse for shorter courses where he should make many cuts given his accuracy tee to green. After rising no higher than 21st in the reshuffle in all of 2012, he'll begin the new year slotted 11th. Invest with confidence.

Erik Compton • 33
Official World Golf Ranking: 419

2013 fantasy projection: 126-150
Rob's Riff: No longer just a double-heart transplant recipient, he proved that he can belong at the game's highest level as a rookie in 2012. He managed only one top 25, but he rustled up 16 cuts made. The strongest component of his game -- putting -- tapered off after a blistering start. He was 15th on TOUR in strokes gained-putting until mid-May but ultimately finished T94. Closed out q-school with a pair of 67s, each of which included only one bogey, a phenomenal achievement that might once and for all put to rest concerns over his stamina. While plenty long off the tee, he'll need to dial in his irons to be fantasy viable. After all, it's a result-based game, and one top 25 falls short of the mark. Wouldn't mind to see him pick his spots to focus on tracks that best match up with his scoring ability on the greens.

Brad Fritsch • 35
Official World Golf Ranking: 293

2013 fantasy projection: 126-150
Rob's Riff: The only 2012 Web.com Tour grad to finish inside the top 25 at q-school. Even more impressive is that the Canadian improved his number in the reshuffle by 19 spots, rising to 15th. In my 2013 projections for Web.com Tour grads, I cited some "depth in the bag," which he illustrated at PGA West en route to a share of seventh place. As a result, I've upgraded his projection.

Jin Park • 33
Official World Golf Ranking: 764

2013 fantasy projection: 151+
Rob's Riff: Getting his second crack at the PGA TOUR. Finished 196th in earnings as a rookie in 2008. Relegated to the Web.com Tour since, he chalked up only three top 10s in the last two years and has yet to win in 143 starts on that circuit. While he was the only q-school grad to card scores of 70 or lower in every round, his long-term trending does not warrant an investment.

Fabian Gomez • 34
Official World Golf Ranking: 675

2013 fantasy projection: 126-150
Rob's Riff: No one went lower than his 12-under 132 in the last 36 holes at PGA West. As a rookie on the PGA TOUR in 2011, he survived a healthy 16 cuts in 26 starts, but 13 of those resulted in finishes outside the top 40, and he settled for 157th on the money list. This year he ranked 55th in earnings on the Web.com Tour where he's had little trouble carving out a living. Now in his prime and with one year of PGA TOUR experience under his belt, he's a deep sleeper but he'll have to make more noise on weekends.

Jeff Gove • 41
Official World Golf Ranking: 598

2013 fantasy projection: 151+
Rob's Riff: Given he considered quitting the game this year, he sets up as a potential Harrison Frazar-type comeback story. However, in six previous seasons on the PGA TOUR, Gove has cracked the top 140 in earnings just once (107th, 2006). While he capped off his season on the Web.com Tour with a modest run (to finish 65th on the money list) and shared 10th place at q-school, he's yet to instill any confidence as a fantasy force at the game's highest level.

Michael Letzig • 32
Official World Golf Ranking: 650

2013 fantasy projection: 126-150
Rob's Riff: Great to see him return to the big leagues after a couple of tough years. Posted five top 10s as a rookie on the PGA TOUR in 2008. Finished inside the top 100 in earnings in both 2008 and 2009. He's always been a sum-is-greater-than-the-parts touring pro, which can translate positively if he adapts properly week to week. The tipping point is his experience of nearly 100 starts. I tend to take a lenient stance on non-winners that finish 126-150 on the money list (as he did in 2010 at 150th), as it can be difficult to craft a solid season on a single tour when starts are split. Now that he's fully exempt again and entering his prime, he's a safe investment later in your draft.

Steven Bowditch • 29
Official World Golf Ranking: 633

2013 fantasy projection: 126-150
Rob's Riff: After holding the lead through five rounds of q-school, he closed with a 74 to tumble 24 spots in the opening reshuffle. While he secured his card with a T10, his week at PGA West was merely the latest in a trend of all-or-nothing experiences. He carded four rounds of 67 or lower, most among anyone in the field, but he was also the only golfer in the top 42 to post as many as two over-par scores. He carries minimal value in long-term formats if for no other reason that you'll likely piggyback a blistering-hot round or two with his putter, and hopefully to close out a tournament. However, he's yet to extend that momentum over an entire event on the PGA TOUR on which he has one top 10 in 75 starts.

Matt Jones • 32
Official World Golf Ranking: 524

2013 fantasy projection: 126-150
Rob's Riff:
Epitome of a moving target. I've always liked his potential, but the inconsistency has drowned out the hope. Once reliable with his putter, it translated into just one season inside the top 130 on the money list (2010). That part of his game has regressed, but other tools haven't refined in the meantime. It suggests that his confidence has taken a hit, which is understandable, but it's not the kind of makeup into which gamers invest. The Aussie gets some benefit of the doubt in my projection, however, given his experience and staying power as it relates to status. Think younger guys like Billy Horschel and Colt Knost. Jones is entering his prime, so he's a calculated flier.

Robert Karlsson • 43
Official World Golf Ranking: 128

2013 fantasy projection: 126-150
Rob's Riff: Just another PGA TOUR member now. Past his prime and once considered a stalwart for the game's biggest events, he's fallen outside the top 100 in the world ranking and not currently eligible for any of the majors and World Golf Championships. A case of the yips over the summer revealed his loss of confidence, and he posted only one top 25 in a stroke-play event anywhere since April. Be careful not to get caught up in his cachet and prepare for a limited schedule as he manages membership on the European Tour.

Eric Meierdierks • Rookie • 27
Official World Golf Ranking: n/a

2013 fantasy projection: 151+
Rob's Riff: Inspiring success story, grinding out his card from the first stage immediately after his father passed away. The one-time letterman at William & Mary (2003-04) played a full schedule on the Gateway Pro Tour this year and placed second in earnings. Won the Illinois Open in 2010 (the same year that fellow 2013 PGA TOUR rookie, Luke Guthrie, was low amateur). In his only appearance in PGA TOUR-sanctioned competition, Meierdierks missed the cut at the 2009 Frys.com Open. He'll begin the season slotted 31st in the reshuffle and isn't worth the gamble unless he posts an early top 25. He's exhibited quite a bit of confidence in his interview following the final round at PGA West, but wait for him to establish some residual value before buying in.

Scott Langley • Rookie • 23
Official World Golf Ranking: 854

2013 fantasy projection: 126-150
Rob's Riff: The higher of two lefties that graduated, some gamers associate with him as the NCAA individual champion in 2010. Others may connect him to a pair of successful trips to the U.S. Open via open qualifying (2010, 2012); he'd go on to survive both cuts. His latest claim to fame is that he was the only golfer at PGA West to post sub-70 scores in each of the last five rounds. The aggregate implication is that he belongs, the problem is that he won't sneak under any radars.

Aaron Watkins • 30
Official World Golf Ranking: 396

2013 fantasy projection: Top 125
Rob's Riff: Quickly becoming one of my favorite sleepers for 2013. His rookie year on the PGA TOUR in 2009 didn't pan out, but he was a still-emerging touring pro at the time. Now with three more full seasons of Web.com Tour experience on which to build, his rise back to the big time falls in line with a natural progression. He posted four top-six finishes on the Web.com Tour in 2012 to finish 39th in earnings, and then closed out q-school with three rounds in the 60s to place T17. His touch around greens and putting overall has improved as well. Unlikely to compete on tracks that reward distance off the tee.

Derek Ernst • Rookie • 22
Official World Golf Ranking: n/a

2013 fantasy projection: 151+
Rob's Riff: Goes in the books as the last to march straight from college to the PGA TOUR via q-school. He was a finalist at the 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links and participated in the Palmer Cup this year. (He went 1-2-1 in a losing cause.) There aren't many fantasy formats that require you to invest in an unproven youngster, so you can afford to let him go about his business alone. Meanwhile, it's mildly intriguing that he shares a birthday (May 16) with fellow former UNLV Runnin' Rebel and 2013 PGA TOUR member (via the Web.com Tour), Andres Gonzales.

Tag Ridings • 38
Official World Golf Ranking: 631

2013 fantasy projection: 151+
Rob's Riff: Missed his card on the number at q-school in 2011. Taggart Twain may own one of the best names in the game, but he's been quadruple-A value since 2006. He's survived just over half of the cuts in 182 career starts in seven seasons on the PGA TOUR, a split that will likely leave him on most free-agent piles.

Si Woo Kim • Rookie • 17
Official World Golf Ranking: 944

2013 fantasy projection: 151+
Rob's Riff: Facing tremendous odds to retain status due to his age. He'll be considered a non-member until his birthday on June 28. Due to the uncertainty of his schedule, there is no reason gamers should invest.
(PGATOUR.COM's Brian Wacker lays out the details of Kim's situation here)

Henrik Norlander • Rookie • 25
Official World Golf Ranking: n/a

2013 fantasy projection: 151+
Rob's Riff: The former Augusta State Jaguar carded a bogey-free 67 at PGA West's Stadium Course in the final round to sneak in on the number. In 18 starts on the eGolf Professional Tour this year (where he tore up the par 5s), he recorded one win and two more top fives to finish 16th on the money list. His next start on the PGA TOUR will be his first. Pass.

Patrick Reed • Rookie • 22
Official World Golf Ranking: 590

2013 fantasy projection: Top 125
Rob's Riff: Even though we know he'll endure his fair share of challenges as a PGA TOUR member, I don't know how you can hedge against him. Six times an open qualifier in 2012, he'd go on to medal at both the first and second stages of q-school before sliding inside the bubble (on the number) in the finale, doing so, of course, on a Monday. With fiancee, Justine, on the bag and reading greens, it's a partnership that has documented success poking at the fringes of eligibility. Now fully exempt, his primary hurdle will be to play his way out of the bowels of the reshuffle. Remain patient as scheduling for everyone in this category is a giant unknown.

Bobby Gates • 27
Official World Golf Ranking: 450

2013 fantasy projection: 126-150
Rob's Riff: Hasn't quite cleared the primary hurdle in his first two tries on the PGA TOUR since 2011, finishing 126th and 141st in earnings. Now a q-school grad for the second consecutive year, experience and youth are plusses, but early starts may be scarce. However, history is also on his side as he's posted one top 10 on the West Coast Swing in each previous season he's had membership, both setting the table for a full schedule. The first occurred at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in 2011, which has moved to the fall to help kick-start the 2013-14 season, but he went 5-for-5 in the first phase of the reshuffle this year, so there's enough evidence to warrant an elevated level of confidence for the long-term.

Donald Constable • Rookie • 23
Official World Golf Ranking: n/a

2013 fantasy projection: 151+
Rob's Riff: If I were writing a Power Rankings of the 26 grads, he'd sit last. However, John Huh began 2012 on the bottom of my expectations for the 2011 class of q-school grads, only to go on to earn Rookie of the Year honors. Constable turned pro after a failed bid to reach match play by two strokes at the U.S. Amateur in August. He'll start 2013 slotted 48th in the reshuffle, one spot higher than Huh began 2012, but the southpaw from Minnesota should be avoided in all formats.

Chez Reavie • 31
Official World Golf Ranking: 164

2013 fantasy projection: 151+
Rob's Riff: Begins his fifth season on the PGA TOUR in the last slot of the reshuffle above the medicals. Failed to log a top 10 in 26 starts this year, but finished 135th on the money list. (In the overall pecking order, he climbed just a handful of spots at q-school, but he earned the opportunity to improve his number again in the reshuffle.) He's carved out a career as a tee-to-green specialist, but he needs to sink more putts. If you're going to invest in a veteran this deep, you'd prefer the opposite correlation between ball-striking and putting.

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