Amazingly we’re less than 10 weeks from the beginning of the FedEx Cup playoffs, meaning the 2016 PGA Tour season is getting down to it. And while it’ll inevitably be remembered for Spieth’s double-dunk at Augusta, DJ’s major breakthrough, and whoever contracts zika down in Rio, 2016 has also seen a glut of first-time winners, quickly approaching the most since the turn of the millennium (according to my crack research via Wikipedia). In fact, after Billy Hurley III’s mega feel-good triumph in DC last weekend, the number of first-time winners this year on Tour stands at 14, same as 2011 and trailing only the 15 first-time winners in 2010 and 18 breakthroughs in 2002.
Being five years on from the last season in which we saw at least 14 first-time winners, I thought it might be interesting to take a quick peak at the group of winners from the aforementioned three years (2011, 2010 and 2002) to what they’ve been up to since their breakthroughs.
2011 First-time Winners (PGA Tour Wins/Majors/Earnings on PGA Tour)
- Jhonattan Vegas (1/0/$5 mill)
- D.A. Points (2/0/$10.5 mill)
- Gary Woodland (2/0/$12.5 mill)
- Charl Schwartzel (2/1/$12 mill)
- Brendan Steele (1/0/$8 mill)
- Keegan Bradley (3/1/$16.5 mill)
- Harrison Frazar (1/0/$11.5 mill)
- Freddie Jacobson (1/0/$18 mill)
- Chris Kirk (4/0/$13.5 mill)
- Scott Stallings (3/0/$8 mill)
- Scott Piercy (3/0/$12.5 mill)
- Webb Simpson (4/1/$21.5 mill)
- Kevin Na (1/0/$22 mill)
- Bryce Molder (1/0/$11 mill)
As a group, the 2011 first-time winners have won 29 times on the PGA Tour, collecting 3 majors and earning over $182 million in prize-money. Their average age at the time of their first victory was a bit over 29 years old. The oldest at the time of his first victory, Harrison Frazar, is among six of the guys still searching for a follow-up win. Keegan Bradley was the youngest at 24 years old.
When I compiled these brief statistical profiles I started with this group and had no idea how they’d compare to 2010 and 2002. At first blush it seemed like a somewhat underwhelming class, which proved to be both correct and not (keep reading and you’ll understand why). They’ll definitely pick off some more Tour wins, but think I’d bet the under on the group getting to 40/5 (Tour wins/Majors) when it’s all said and done.
Majors-wise, Schwartzel is mega-talented and remains the best bet to snatch another one. Webb will grind his way into contention at a few more US Opens, but I don’t see him really contending outside of that. If Keegan can become proficient with a regular putter, he has the ball-striking game to position himself for another major, and obviously as Scott Piercy showed at Oakmont, a guy like him can be squarely in the hunt for a major any given time, but all-in-all there is nobody I’d say is for sure going to bag another big one.
2010 First-time Winners (PGA Tour Wins/Majors/Earnings on PGA Tour)
- Bill Haas (Member FDIC) (6/0/$25 mill)
- Ian Poulter (2/0/$18 mill)
- Derek Lamely (1/0/$1.5 mill)
- Rory McIlroy (11/4/$30.5 mill)
- Tim Clark (2/0/$24 mill)
- Jason Day (10/1/$33 mill)
- Justin Rose (7/1/$36.5 mill)
- Graeme McDowell (3/1/$13.5 mill)
- Bubba Watson (9/2/$35 mill)
- Louis Oosthuizen (1/1/$12 mill)
- Matt Bettencourt (1/0/$3 mill)
- Bill Lunde (1/0/$3.5 mill)
- Martin Kaymer (3/2/$9.5 mill)
- Arjun Atwal (1/0/$5 mill)
- Robert Garrigus (1/0/$12.5 mill)
JEEEEEEEEEEEEESUS (leaning back).
These guys have collected 59 wins on Tour, including 12 majors. They’ve banked over a quarter billion in earnings ($263+ million). Four of the current top ten players in the world are in this group, including five future Hall of Famers (Rory, Day, Rose, Watson and Kaymer) and couple more that could have looks before it’s all said and done (Oosthuizen and Haas–Haas, admittedly, a strong reach). Their average age at the time of the first win was just shy of 30 years old, with Rory the youngest at 20 years old and Arjun Atwal the oldest at 37. Like 2011, six of the members in this group have not won again.
This group of 2010 is easily the most impressive group of first-time winners on Tour dating back to 2000. And except for the years Tiger and Jack came out, I have to think it’s right up there as being the most impressive in the history of the Tour. I don’t think 100 combined wins and 20 majors is out of the question, right? Hell, that may be a little low depending on the damage Rory and Day inflict over these next five to seven years. Additionally, Rose and Watson are legit threats to win every time they peg it, Oosthuizen may be the most talented player in the world, and Kaymer’s top gear, when he can get to it, is crazy good.
Last thing I want to point out with this group is that I’ve totally ignored results outside the PGA Tour. Factoring in wins around the world, the success of this group gets really, really heady. Which is fantastic juxtaposition for this next group…
2002 First-time Winners (PGA Tour Wins/Majors/Earnings on PGA Tour)
- Jerry Kelly (3/0/$28 mill)
- Matt Gogel (1/0/$4.5 mill)
- Len Mattiace (2/0/$7 mill)
- Ian Leggatt (1/0/$2.5 mill)
- Kevin Sutherland (1/0/$15.5 mill)
- Matt Kuchar (7/0/$36.5 mill)
- Craig Perks (1/0/$3.5 mill)
- KJ Choi (8/0/$32 mill)
- Chris Smith (1/0/$5 mill)
- Spike McRoy (1/0/$2.5 mill)
- Chris Riley (1/0/$11.5 mill)
- Craig Parry (2/0/$8.5 mill)
- John Rollins (3/0/$18.5 mill)
- Charles Howell III (2/0/$31 mill)
- Phil Tataurangi (1/0/$3 mill)
- Bob Burns (1/0/$3.5 mill)
- Jonathan Byrd (5/0/$18 mill)
- Luke Donald (5/0/$34 mill)
This group is so much fun. I’m so happy Kuchar is in here. I loved getting to look up Ian Leggatt, Spike Mcroy and Bob Burns. I love that there’s infinitely many more Golf Channel analysts than majors in this group. And I love that Jerry Kelly, KJ Choi and CH3 have combined to bank almost $100 million in earnings (what up, Tiger!). Really, really good stuff.
Combined, the first-time winners of 2002 have won 46 times on Tour, with the aforementioned zero majors. They’ve won just about the same amount in earnings as the 2010 group ($265 million). Their average age at the time of first win was almost 31 years old, the youngest being Kuchar and Howell III at 23, while the oldest was Kevin Sutherland at 37. Half the guys never won again, and I feel very confident in the wording of that.
Can this group get to 50 wins? Can Kuchar win four more times? Maybe CH3 snags one, or perhaps a rejuvenated Luke Donald? I don’t know, I think it will be very close. What I don’t think will be particularly close is guessing this group remains major-less.
2016 First-time Winners
- Emiliano Grillo
- Smylie Kaufman
- Justin Thomas
- Russell Knox
- Peter Malnati
- Kevin Kisner
- Tony Finau
- Jim Herman
- Danny Willett
- Branden Grace
- Brian Stuard
- William McGirt
- Daniel Berger
- Billy Hurley III
What will this group of first-time winners look like in five years? They already have a major with Willett’s Green Jacket. Who are the other guys with major talent? Who are the (most likely) six to eight guys who will be stuck on one win five years from now?
Share your thoughts in the comments if you’re so inclined.