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The rookies who will make a splash in 2022

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Stats Report

The rookies who will make a splash in 2022

    Written by Justin Ray, @JustinRayGolf

    Talented newcomers rise to the tops of leaderboards every year on the PGA TOUR, because while the top FedExCup point-earners make up an exclusive club, the abilities of the young stars have proven undeniable.

    Future legends like Vijay Singh (1993), Ernie Els (1994) and Tiger Woods (1996) all kickstarted their TOUR careers by earning Rookie of the Year honors. Of the top 32 players in this week’s Official World Golf Ranking, seven won the award. In 2021, first-year PGA TOUR member Erik van Rooyen made it all the way to the TOUR Championship, while Will Zalatoris – who ranked in the top 10 in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green – took home the R.O.Y. trophy. The 2021-22 Rookie Ranking provides a subjective ranking updated weekly.

    After the unprecedented 2020-2021 Korn Ferry Tour “super season,” many talented first-year players are primed to make a major impact on the PGA TOUR in 2022. Below is a look at some of the first-year TOUR pros who could make a splash.

    Taylor Pendrith
    Few players on the Korn Ferry Tour had as balanced a statistical profile as this 30-year-old Canadian. He bombs it off the tee (323.3 yards on average), and hit well over 70% of his greens in regulation (72.8%, ranked 18th). Pendrith ranked 5th in birdie average, and in the top 20 in total driving, ball striking and the all-around ranking. Short game, you ask? He ranked 9th in scrambling (64.2%) and a respectable T-36 in putts per green in regulation (1.75).

    Pendrith has already flashed potential this season: After rounds of 70-61-65, he held a three-shot lead entering the final round of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship in October. Ultimately, he finished tied for fifth after a final-round 76.

    Aaron Rai
    Accomplished at every professional level, Englishman Aaron Rai has the game to become a household name. His strength has been his approach play, having ranked in the top 25 on the DP World Tour in greens in regulation the last five seasons.

    In 2017, he rattled off three Challenge Tour victories in a five-month span, and in his two DP World Tour wins he beat some of the best players in the world – Matt Fitzpatrick at the 2018 Hong Kong Open, and Tommy Fleetwood in a playoff at the 2020 Scottish Open, a Rolex Series event. He capped off his fall run with three straight top-20 finishes on TOUR last fall.

    Chad Ramey
    How’s this for consistency? In his last 39 starts on the Korn Ferry Tour, Ramey has 11 top-10 finishes, five top-three finishes, and just one missed cut. His active run of 26 straight made cuts is the longest on the tour, far and away. Ramey ranked 3rd on the KFT in the 2020-21 extended season in greens in regulation (74.8%), 2nd in scoring average (68.81) and 9th in the all-around ranking. In six PGA TOUR starts last fall, Ramey picked up a pair of top-20 finishes.

    Mito Pereira
    Last June, Pereira became the first player in five years to earn the Three Victory Promotion from the Korn Ferry Tour to the PGA TOUR. The Chilean has made the most of his TOUR opportunities since, making 10 of 13 cuts and picking up a trio of top-10 finishes. Card in hand, 2021-22 will be his first full season as a TOUR player. The stats say he’ll do well.

    Since July 1, there are 132 players with 20 or more TOUR rounds measured by ShotLink. Of that group, Pereira ranks 10th in Strokes Gained: Total, narrowly behind Webb Simpson. In that same span, he’s 6th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking (measuring shots off the tee and approaching the green), gaining 1.16 shots per round against the field.

    Hayden Buckley
    A University of Missouri product, Buckley was one of the most consistent players tee-to-green on the Korn Ferry Tour a season ago. For the season, he ranked 3rd in ball striking, 4th in total driving, and 9th in greens in regulation. After securing his PGA TOUR card via the Korn Ferry Tour finals (pair of top-10 finishes), he continued his strong play in the fall, finishing T4 at the Sanderson Farms Championship and T8 at the Shriners Children’s Open.

    Buckley is continuing his strong tee-to-green play so far on the big circuit, ranking in the top 20 in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and Strokes Gained: Total.

    Cameron Young
    At the Sanderson Farms last fall, Cameron Young nearly strapped a rocket to his rookie season. In what was his first career made cut in a PGA TOUR event, Young closed with 67-68 to finish a shot back of tournament winner Sam Burns. Speaking of rockets, check out Young with the driver in his hands if you get the chance – he’s hitting it 323 yards off the tee, which, although it’s early, currently leads the driving distance stat on TOUR.

    Sahith Theegala
    Young started that final round in Mississippi a shot behind Sahith Theegala, who led or co-led after each of the first three rounds before winding up in a tie for 8th place. Theegala comes to the TOUR with justified fanfare: In his final collegiate season at Pepperdine, Theegala swept the major player of the year awards (Nicklaus, Hogan and Haskins).

    The superlatives: Theegala hit nearly 82% of his greens in regulation at the Korn Ferry Tour Finals last year, tied for second-most in the field. And in limited PGA TOUR action in 2021, he has averaged 0.72 Strokes Gained: Putting per round – a rate that would have ranked 2nd on TOUR over the course of the entire season.

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