Pro Golf Weekly

2018 PGA Championship Power Rankings: Top 30

Three 2018 majors have led to three worthy champions: Patrick Reed at The Masters, Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open, and Francesco Molinari at the Open Championship. All three thwarted grueling competition and stood alone at the end, capturing their respective majors by a combined four strokes. Fans have been treated to dauntless contests, and the bar seemingly cannot get much higher.

The year’s final major brings the golf world to the Gateway to the West: inimitable St. Louis, Missouri, where the best of the best will convene at Bellerive Country Club for the 100th edition of the PGA Championship.

Awaiting the winner, along with golf immortality, is $1.98 million dollars, and the Wanamaker Trophy – a much-coveted piece of championship hardware that has been presented over the past century to sports legends such as Gene Sarazen, Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, and Tiger Woods.

The PGA probably could not have found a better venue to host such a momentous event, as the course is challenging on countless levels, and does not inherently favor one style of golfer.

The championship might be wide-open, but here are the 30 players we like best:

30b. Kyle Stanley

Stanley’s history in major championships is something in the neighborhood of “terrible”, with nine missed cuts and no results better than a T39 in 15 starts, but over the last two years, we have seen a significantly improved version of the 30-year-old Clemson product, with his two highest-earning seasons, by far, being 2017 and 2018.

Kyle Stanley PGA Tour
Kyle Stanley hits a shot during the third round of the 2018 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. Credit: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

At a course where staying out of the rough is especially necessary, Stanley’s 80-1 odds make him a very tempting bet, as he ranks 5th on Tour in driving accuracy, and 4th in greens in regulation.

Also, while he has yet to crack relevancy in a major, he finished in the top five in three of four WGC events this season, including a solo-second at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone. In addition, he shared runner-up honors at The Memorial Tournament, an event that boasts one of the strongest fields outside the majors and WGC events.

Odds: 80-1
World Rank: 26
2018 Masters: 52
2018 U.S. Open: MC
2018 British Open: 39
Last Six: 2, 39, MC, 32, 15, MC
2018 Wins: 0


30a. Alex Noren

At World No. 13, Noren is the world’s highest-ranked Swede, four spots ahead of Henrik Stenson, but with just a fraction of Stenson’s success in majors, Noren falls well behind him on this list.

Sweden’s Alex Noren tees off on the 9th hole during the final round of the 2018 Open de France at Le Golf National in Paris, France. Credit: Getty Images/Tony Marshall

Even though he has never contended in a major, there is reason to be optimistic that this week could be his first. He excels at keeping the ball in play, ranks fourth on Tour in strokes gained: putting, and has seven victories worldwide over the past four years, with all seven coming on the European Tour. Just a month ago, Noren won the French Open despite beginning the final round seven strokes out of the lead.

A 35-year-old who spent his college years on Oklahoma State’s highly-regarded program, Noren is still looking for his first professional victory in the states, but has had several close calls this year, taking Jason Day to six playoff holes at the Farmers Insurance Open, and posting T3s at the Honda Classic and the WGC-Match Play. Those were all before the start of April, however.

Odds: 55-1
World Rank: 13
2018 Masters: MC
2018 U.S. Open: 25
2018 British Open: 17
Last Six: 31, 17, 1, 25, 23, 3
2018 Wins: 1 (Open de France)


29. Tyrrell Hatton

The majors have been boom or bust for England’s Tyrrell Hatton over the past three seasons. He has three top 10s in nine starts over that span, but has not finished in the top 40 of any of the other six, and he had the ignominious distinction of missing the cut in all four 2017 majors.

Tyrrell Hatton Open Championship Power Rankings
Tyrrell Hatton on the 13th tee at Gullane Golf Course during day one of the 2018 ASI Scottish Open in Gullane, Scotland. Credit: Harry How/Getty Images

Hatton remains one of the world’s best putters, and despite being relatively anonymous, he has enjoyed success worldwide, reaching as high as No. 13 in the world rankings after a T3 finish at March’s WGC-Mexico Championship, with a bogey on the 72nd hole keeping him a single stroke out of the Phil Mickelson – Justin Thomas playoff.

Hatton often looks on the periphery of being a serious major contender, but he is the epitome of “streaky”. He has stretches where he cannot miss, like in late 2017 when he followed up a T3 and a T8 with back-to-back victories in Europe, but his downs tend to be prolonged, best illustrated during awful play from last year’s Masters through the PGA Championship, where he missed seven cuts in 11 events, with nothing inside the top 25.

So, what kind of streak is Hatton on now? After missing three consecutive cuts, he followed a T6 at the U.S. Open with two more strong finishes, a T16 and a T9. However, he was a non-factor at The Open Championship, failing to post a single round under par on his way to a T51, and last week was kind of a mixed bag at the WGC-Bridgestone, where he started well with rounds of 68 and 67, but a 72-71 finish dropped him into a tie for 28th.

At 150-1 odds, Hatton is a potential steal, but his recent play does not give us confidence that this will be a week where his results are commensurate with his undeniable talent.

Odds: 150-1
World Rank: 25
2018 Masters: 44
2018 U.S. Open: 6
2018 British Open: 51
Last Six: 28, 51, 9, 16, 6, MC
2018 Wins: 0


28. Eddie Pepperell

Professional golf’s latest Twitter sensation, the extremely personable Pepperell went out early on Sunday at last month’s Open Championship and posted a number: a 4-under 67 that got him to 5-under for the tournament, and as the leaders started faltering, that 5-under mark looked for a while like it might actually stand.

Eddie Pepperell 2018 British Open, Round 4
Eddie Pepperell walks to the 18th green at Carnoustie Golf Club with caddie Mick Doran during the final round of the 2018 Open Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland. Credit: David Cannon/Getty Images

The 27-year-old Brit finished T6 for his second consecutive quality start, one week after he was the solo runner-up at the Scottish Open, exploding on Sunday with an effort that was outdone only by Brandon Stone’s all time great final round, which was inches away from being the first 59 in European Tour history.

Those two recent results are a good sign for Pepperell’s chances at Bellerive, as he has shown the ability to get hot before, particularly in late in 2017, when he had six top-10s in a seven event stretch. Pepperell has played sparingly in the U.S., but he looked good in his last American outing, finishing T16 at last year’s U.S. Open.

Odds: 200-1
World Rank: 57
2018 Masters: DNQ
2018 U.S. Open: DNQ
2018 British Open: 6
Last Six: 6, 2, MC, DQ, 51, 43
2018 Wins: 1 (Qatar Masters)


27. Ian Poulter

With Lee Westwood failing to qualify for what would have been his 81st career start in a major, it is likely that no player in the field is housing a louder-ticking major championship biological clock than Ian Poulter who, at the age of 42, is still looking for win No. 1. Finishing inside the top 25 in 23 of his 58 major starts, it seems that Poulter has done everything but win.

Ian Poulter 2018 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone CC South Course
Ian Poulter tees off on No. 8 during day one of the 2018 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone CC South Course in Akron, Ohio. Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

After hitting hard times with the state of his game, there was a feeling that Poulter was past his prime, and likely to become the next Colin Montgomerie. However, Poulter did what many have in his position could not: he rediscovered his game. After sinking to 207th in the world in February of 2017, the legendary European Ryder Cupper began a climb up the world rankings that hit 29th after he prevailed in a playoff at the Houston Open in April.

Poulter’s resurgent iron game had him in contention at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, holding the solo lead after a first round 62, and keeping a share of that lead after round two. He was in a tie for second going into the final round, but found himself among the notables in the leader mix to fall flat on Sunday, with five bogeys and a double leading a 4-over 74, and dropping him into a share of tenth place. Still, a hot first three rounds with the putter could be a sign of good things to come this week at Bellerive.

Odds: 100-1
World Rank: 31
2018 Masters: 44
2018 U.S. Open: 25
2018 British Open: MC
Last Six: 10, 12, MC, 30, 21, 25
2018 Wins: 1 (Houston Open)


26. Patrick Cantlay

Off the strength of an opening-round 64, Patrick Cantlay achieved his first career top-10 in a WGC event, finishing T6 at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. It was just his fourth career WGC appearance, but with the unusual route the 26-year-old former amateur superstar has taken to get to where he finds himself, everything is a limited sample size.

Patrick Cantlay
Patrick Cantlay tees off on the fifth hole during day two of the 2018 PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. Credit: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Still, so far so good for Cantlay in 31 starts over the past two seasons, after injuries kept him on the sidelines in 2015 and 2016. In that stretch, he missed just two cuts, and has 10 tops, including one victory, which occurred at last October’s Shriners for Hospitals Open.

The next step in a career progression that most agree has a high floor, Cantlay is looking for his first top 10 in a major. He was written off by many going into last month’s Open Championship at historically-difficult Carnoustie, understandable given that it was his event debut, but as he has made a living off doing the past two years, Cantlay exceeded expectations with a T12 effort, and was one Friday stroke short of four consecutive 1-under 70s.

Cantlay now has top-15 finishes in four of his past five starts, and statistically, he provides a compelling case to be considered among the top dozen or so favorites at Bellerive. Exhibit A is his position at 8th on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, a statistic that should carry extra weight at a course that chief designer Rees Jones said “requires shot makers” in a Twitter chat just last week. A few more check marks in Cantlay’s “pros” column: he is 11th in strokes gained: off-the-tee, 15th in greens in regulation percentage, and 18th in scoring average.

Odds: 50-1
World Rank: 24
2018 Masters: MC
2018 U.S. Open: 45
2018 British Open: 12
Last Six: 6, 12, 15, 45, 4, MC
2018 Wins: 1 (Shriners Hospitals Open)


25. Zach Johnson

It has been another steady season for the PGA’s lesser Johnson, who has made 20 cuts in 21 events this season, and while he has just two top-10s, he has 13 top 25s, with each of his last five starts – a span that includes two majors and a WGC event – resulting in a finish between 12th and 17th place.

Zach Johnson PGA Tour
Zach Johnson reacts after a birdie from a bunker on the eighth hole during the first round of the 2015 John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois. Credit: Michael Cohen/Getty Images

A 69-67 start at last month’s Open Championship even got him into the final pairing of round 3 with Kevin Kisner.

None of ZJ’s 12 career victories have come in the last three years, but his experience and cool head should provide him a considerable advantage at Bellerive. If he is able to capture his first victory since the 2015 Open Championship, he will have completed three legs of the career Grand Slam, which would put another stamp on a very underrated career. Johnson should also be motivated by the possibility that a very high finish could mean a sixth career Ryder Cup appearance.

Odds: 100-1
World Rank: 50
2018 Masters: 36
2018 U.S. Open: 12
2018 British Open: 17
Last Six: 17, 17, 16, 19, 12, 40
2018 Wins: 0


24. Kevin Kisner

A man who works the putter as smoothly as Kenny G works the soprano sax, Kisner has been nothing short of terrible in eight of nine starts over the past three months, but that one quality outing was his short game masterpiece at the Open Championship.

Kevin Kisner 2018 British Open, Round 2
Kevin Kisner and caddie Duane Bock on the 9th hole at Carnoustie Golf Club during day two of the 2018 Open Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland. Credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The 18-hole leader, and 36 and 54-hole co-leader, rebounded from four dropped shots over the first eight holes on Sunday to get himself back into the mix late, but could not quite catch Francesco Molinari over the closing stretch and had to settle for a runner-up result.

If that tale from Carnoustie sounds familiar, that is because it is almost exactly what happened to Kisner at Quail Hollow in last year’s PGA Championship. Kisner was a leader or co-leader after each of the first three rounds, lost the lead, and had his rally come up short.

Kisner is not the longest hitter, but Bellerive does not necessarily require length (although it helps). If Kisner keeps his drives in the fairway, he very well could factor into his second consecutive major, and second consecutive PGA Championship.

Odds: 100-1
World Rank: 27
2018 Masters: 28
2018 U.S. Open: MC
2018 British Open: 2
Last Six: 39, MC, 2, 55, MC, 74
2018 Wins: 0


23. Haotong Li

No discussion about the world’s best young golfers should conclude without the inclusion of 23-year-old Haotong Li of China. The European Tour regular already has two career victories on that circuit, with the most recent being at January’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic, where he impressively outdueled Rory McIlroy on Sunday.

Haotong Li
Haotong Li hits a shot from a bunker on the 1st hole during day three of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates GC in Dubai, UAE. Credit: David Cannon/Getty Images

Li has flashed prodigious talent in big events, best illustrated by his final round 63 at last year’s Open Championship that led to a solo-third place finish, but also by a T16 at this year’s U.S. Open that came despite a first-round 79.

At last week’s WGC-Bridgestone, he opened with rounds of 66 and 67 before stumbling on the weekend. With more experience, he has the looks of a major champion, and with 200-1 odds, he is one of the most intriguing longshots at Bellerive.

Not to mention, Li is also a fantastic story. Despite being the world’s most populous country, a history of unusual government actions have historically suppressed the growth of the game. Haotong has the potential to put China on the global golf map and become an inspiration for billions.

Odds: 200-1
World Rank: 45
2018 Masters: 32
2018 U.S. Open: 16
2018 British Open: 39
Last Six: 39, 39, 23, MC, 21, 16
2018 Wins: 1 (Omega Dubai Classic)


22. Louis Oosthuizen

A man who is easily in the running for coolest full name in professional golf, Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen is not having a spectacular 2018 by his standards, with just three top-10s in 16 starts worldwide, but the South African always warrants serious consideration at the majors.

Louis Oosthuizen Open Championship Power Rankings
Louis Oosthuizen hits a shot on the sixth hole during the first round of the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York. Credit: David Cannon/Getty Images

With a T2 at last year’s PGA Championship, Oosthuizen completed the career runner-up Grand Slam, having finished in second place at least once in all four majors. Fortunately, he has that blowout victory at the 2010 Open Championship preventing the all the close missed from defining his career, but another major could further cement his legacy.

His short game has been on key in his recent starts, and he is one of the world’s best bunker players, a big positive at sand-heavy Bellerive. Also, with three rounds in the 60s at least week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, he could be ripe for another week of major contention. The PGA Championship is the only major where he has not at least reached a playoff, so that is something to look out for if the Sunday scores get close again.

Odds: 80-1
World Rank: 34
2018 Masters: 12
2018 U.S. Open: 16
2018 British Open: 28
Last Six: 24, 28, 16, 13, 5, MC
2018 Wins: 0


21. Keegan Bradley

Playing the 2011 PGA Championship as his first ever major, Bradley overcame a late five-stroke deficit to become just the third man ever to triumph in their major debut. However, much like the previous man to achieve that feat (Ben Curtis), Bradley’s career has not quite taken off like many expected.

Keegan Bradley 2018 RBC Canadian Open
Keegan Bradley hits a shot from the 16th tee during the final round of the 2018 RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Canada. Credit: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Vermont’s best golfer has not won a Tour event since the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and he has just one top-3 finish over the past four years. That all being said, Bradley has given golf fans a reason to believe in him again, with his stellar iron play in 2018. He currently leads the Tour in strokes gained: approach-the-green, and as of late, has been hitting his fairways, and scrambling well. In his most recent start, at the RBC Canadian Open, Bradley had rounds of 63 and 64 and carded five eagles for the week.

Bradley’s critics know where he gets himself in trouble though: his putting. Someone who used to be at least a capable putter has plummeted in that regard since 2014, and currently sitting at 191st on Tour in strokes gained: putting gives the impression that he is not any closer to emerging from his flatstick slump, but his recent results say otherwise.

At the RBC Canadian Open, he gained 5.2 strokes on the field putting, and in his previous event that we have Shotlink data for, A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, he also finished in the positive on the greens on three of four days and for the week. That may be a small sample size, but it could also be seen as an encouraging trend.

With Bradley’s suddenly pristine iron play, if he is again able to at least prevent his putting from being a liability, he could surprise in this event for the second time.

Odds: 100-1
World Rank: 65
2018 Masters: DNQ
2018 U.S. Open: MC
2018 British Open: 79
Last Six: 4, 79, 13, 47, MC, 23
2018 Wins: 0


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Joel Cook

Joel Cook is Pro Golf Weekly's Lead Writer. He is a member of the Golf Writer's Association of America.

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