This season's PGA Tour rookie class includes players who have already visited the winner's circle. Who will rise above the rest? Our writers weigh in.
By REX HOGGARD
A class that includes arguably more blue-chip prospects than any other rookie group in recent memory will be led by a true blue-collar player – Andrew “Beef” Johnston.
Although it’s tough not to acknowledge that there are already two rookies with victories on their resumes this season (Mackenzie Hughes and Cody Gribble), the hardware for best first-year player seems destined for Johnston considering his resume and the opportunities he will have in 2017.
Johnston, who earned his Tour card via the Web.com Tour Finals, finished the year inside the top 100 in the world ranking and began his season at the lucrative, no-cut WGC-HSBC Champions. It’s a luxury most rookies won’t enjoy, and his victory late last season at the European Tour’s Spanish Open is proof he can compete at the highest level.
By RYAN LAVNER
It took him a little bit longer than some of the more heralded members of the high school class of 2011, but Ollie Schniederjans has finally landed on the big tour.
A former No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, he has the firepower to hang with anyone on the PGA Tour. The only concern, like with most young players, is consistency. He’s prone to big splashes and even bigger flameouts. Last year on the Web.com Tour, he made only 12 of 20 cuts. He still finished sixth in earnings. Already on the PGA Tour, he’s just 1-for-4, but the lone made cut was a tie for sixth at Sea Island, where he was in contention all four days.
The hatless wonder is a future star on Tour. His 2017 can be made with just a few spectacular weeks.
By WILL GRAY
This piece of hardware tends to go to players who win in their first season on Tour, giving Cody Gribble and Mackenzie Hughes a decided advantage heading into the new year. But given the choice, I’ll side with Gribble, who has already shown that his Sanderson Farms victory was no fluke.
A former standout at the University of Texas, Gribble finished T-8 at the Safeway Open in his first start as a member and also added a T-15 finish in Mexico after bagging his first trophy. Gribble was on that 2012 Texas team that won a national title and featured a young prospect named Spieth, and Gribble’s strong short game has him ranked fifth this season in strokes gained putting.
Gribble’s win didn’t earn him a Masters invitation, but he’s in the PGA and has qualified for the U.S. Open each of the last two years at sectionals. When the dust settles in August, expect him to have passed Hughes and the rest of the ’17 rookie class.
By RANDALL MELL
Though Bryan didn’t make a large impression in his four PGA Tour fall starts, he enjoyed a big 2016 season anyway, thanks to his three Web.com Tour victories. He led that tour in putting, was second in birdies per round and third in scoring.
Those numbers bode well for continuing to show there’s more to this player than his viral video trick-shot fame.