PGA Tour mock draft
OK, we'll admit it: We've got the fever. Draft fever.
We caught every pick from Mario Williams down to Mr. Irrelevant, Kevin McMahan (only during commercials of golf telecasts, of course), even gazed longingly at all the mock draft previews that littered the sporting landscape beforehand.
Which got us to thinking: Why can't we produce a PGA Tour mock draft? Uh, you know, other than the fact that there is no professional golf draft and, um, no franchises, either? Let's just say you're in some über-golf fantasy draft in which teams keep players for the next 20 years, with the sole category being total money earned on tour between now and the 2026 season. Whom do you pick?
The Weekly 18 has the answers, as we comb our hair into a Mel Kiper Jr.-like pompadour and proffer this list of the top potential PGA Tour golfers over the long-term future.
Too easy? Not exactly. After all, with 10 years of full-time PGA Tour experience and 10 major championships to his credit, there's already plenty of tread on the tires. Despite that, he's only 30 years old, and we could certainly see Tiger still winning green jackets at, say, 46, which just happens to be the same age Jack Nicklaus was when he won his sixth Masters in 1986. Speaking of Jack, Woods not only wants to break his record of 18 major victories, he wants to put it out of reach for the next generation's Best Golfer of All-Time. With Tiger's stringent workout regimen, there are no signs of any slowing down, at least not in the next decade.
From tee to green, Garcia is perhaps the most fundamentally sound player on the planet -- and that includes the guy ranked just above him on this list. His biggest obstacle has been the flat stick, but you've got to think Sergio will reclaim some semblance of success on the greens. In his first full PGA Tour season (in 2000), he ranked fourth in putting average; this year, he's dipped to 167th. The fact that he has held onto his top-10 status despite the short-game struggles speaks to just how talented he is.
OK, so if it looks like we're going chalk so far, well, maybe we are. Already a three-time PGA Tour winner (four if you'd like to include his unofficial victory at last year's 36-hole Nissan Open) and top-10 player, Scott owns a wealth of talent, though we're still waiting for it to materialize on a week-in, week-out basis. With a smooth, effortless swing, this 25-year-old will be around for a long time to come.
He was All-Everything as an amateur, having won a U.S. Amateur, NCAA individual championship and four All-America selections while at UNLV. Since turning professional prior to last year's Barclays Classic, he's made the cut in 10 of 17 events, including a T-2 at the Canadian Open. Currently on the shelf with a cracked bone in his left wrist, Moore's self-taught swing looks a little funky, but he's used it for so long that it holds up well under pressure.
There aren't many rules for this list, but here's one: If you tie the Spyglass Hill course record of 62 at age 28, you're in. Such is the case for Donald, who's the world's second-ranked European player (behind only Garcia) and already owns two PGA Tour victories to go along with two on the Euro Tour. The only question: Does he have enough length off the tee? His average driving distance of 281.0 yards is down from 284.5 last season, but Donald is crafty enough to score well -- and continue winning -- without being a big bomber.
The Colombian heartthrob has taken the PGA Tour by storm this season, with three top-three finishes already. File this under the category of "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" if you must, but now Villegas needs a trip to the winner's circle to further cement his standing as one of the world's top young players. Really want to make a splash in the mock draft? Also take his brother, Manuel, who's a redshirt sophomore at the University of Florida.
Noticeably absent from this list is three-time major winner Phil Mickelson, who is two months shy of his 36th birthday and likely has less than a decade of top play left in him. Instead, we present this Mickelson clone; Harman is a lefty who's currently a freshman at the University of Georgia. Last year he became the youngest player to ever represent the U.S. in the Walker Cup, compiling the only undefeated record (2-0-1) on the team. As a junior player, he became only the third person in the past 20 years to win back-to-back Rolex Player of the Year awards. The other two? Tiger Woods and -- you got it -- Mickelson.
Just 26 and with one PGA Tour victory already under his belt, Glover is seemingly in contention every other week, compiling nine top-25 finishes in 13 starts this season. The Clemson product has all the tools; namely, he hits the ball a long way and rolls it pretty well. But the best part of Glover's game? He's clutch, having once hit an approach shot to within three feet on the final hole at Q School and holing out a bunker shot to win last year's Funai Classic.
If you thought you've seen enough of the Aussie Invasion (men from Down Under have accounted for five tour victories this season), just wait until Flanagan hits the big time, perhaps as soon as next year. The former U.S. Amateur champion has finished in the top-25 in all four of his Nationwide Tour starts so far this season, though his best days may still come overseas, as evidenced by a T-23 result at last year's British Open.
We don't want to get too ahead of ourselves, but considering this Scottsdale, Ariz., resident has dual residency in Sweden, could there be a Ryder Cup bidding war in the foreseeable future? For now, he's the third-ranked AJGA player, with a victory and runner-up finish in two starts this season. Francis won't graduate high school until next year, but the Jim Flick prodigy certainly has a bright future ahead of him.
Last year's top freshman in the collegiate ranks when he won in two of his first three starts, this Oklahoma State product was recently named Big 12 Player of the Year and may have an inside track on top NCAA honors as well. From Malaga, Spain, Martin turned 20 just two weeks ago and is still getting used to competing on American soil. By the time he reaches the PGA Tour, he should be extremely cultivated in the nuances of stateside courses.
Injuries have taken their toll on Na throughout his professional career, but you don't become the youngest PGA Tour member three years running without plenty of game. The 22-year-old was severely disappointed when he lost last year's Chrysler Classic of Tucson in a playoff, but the experience he's already gained on tour places him lightyears ahead of other talented players of the same age.
This 16-year-old is the son of Acushnet chairman and CEO Wally Uihlein, which means he's probably not scrounging through the bargain bin for golf balls. He is also the second-ranked player in the American Junior Golf Association and was the Rolex Junior Player of the Year in 2005 with three wins and 12 top-10 finishes in 14 total AJGA starts.
Talk about a pedigree. Saunders' maternal grandfather knows a thing or two about playing professional golf -- guy named Arnold Palmer, you may have heard of him. Saunders won't come close to granddad's professional record -- and let's hope he feels no pressure to equal those 62 PGA Tour wins and seven major titles -- but the high school senior could be a force down the road. One thing's for sure: Like Arnie, he'll garner his own legion of fans once he makes it to the big leagues (perhaps they'll be called Sam's Army, to borrow a name from U.S. soccer fans?).
At 28, this two-time PGA Tour champion is among the older players on this list, but there's no reason to believe he won't enjoy success for the next 15 years. Ogilvy is just coming into his own, having won six consecutive matches to claim the Accenture Match Play title earlier this season, and his game looks built for major championships; in his last six major starts, Ogilvy hasn't finished below 28th, including a T-16 in his first Masters this year. He enjoys links golf, meaning a few Claret Jugs could be in his future.
With a victory and a second place in two of his last three European Tour starts, Fernandez-Castano has quietly risen to 64th in the World Ranking. Will he follow Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and Garcia as the next in a long line of elite Spanish golfers? Perhaps. At 25, he has limited experience in the U.S., missing the cut at Tucson and Doral earlier this year.
If his back holds up after all those years of swinging so danged hard, Big Bubba has a chance to be a John Daly-like figure on tour. As courses continue adding length, Watson's prodigious blasts off the tee -- he currently leads the tour in driving distance at 318.5 yards a pop -- will become even more beneficial. Then again, with the way kids play these days, he'll be lucky to rank in the top 20 in that category a decade from now.
Yes, we know the self-imposed guideline calls for PGA Tour players only. And yes, we know Wie is female. Contrarians will note she has yet to make the cut in a men's event. Supporters will contend that she already has more experience than any player her age -- male or female. The 16-year-old is clearly the future of golf. It just remains to be seen whether that future is on the PGA Tour. We think it is.
Round 2: Aaron Baddeley, Ben Crane, Rhys Davies, Nick Dougherty, Bill Haas, J.B. Holmes, Mu Hu, Trevor Immelman, Anthony Kim, Jamie Lovemark, Graeme McDowell, Sean O'Hair, Jeff Overton, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson, Kevin Stadler, Kevin Tway, Dawie Van Der Walt.
Round 3: Charlie Beljan, Steven Bowditch, Jonathan Byrd, Chad Campbell, Bubba Dickerson, Matt Every, Rickie Fowler, Rory Hie, Charles Howell III, Sihwan Kim, James Lepp, Hunter Mahan, Troy Matteson, Edoardo Molinari, Kyle Stanley, Vaughn Taylor, Nicholas Thompson, Nick Watney.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com