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New Ranking*

Our top betting expert’s unscientific ranking of the best players in the world

April 05, 2024

Just like much of the past two-plus years, a lot of the talk leading into the Masters this year is about golf’s inability to rank its best players. It’s not a new discussion, but the complaints are getting louder. The Official World Golf Rankings is used by majors to determine fields, but when discussing with friends or making picks for your betting pools—it’s just plain crazy to accept that Dustin Johnson is the 327th-best player in the world, Bryson DeChambeau ranked at 208th, etc. LIV has caused golf to search for answers in many areas, and this is one of the glaring issues.

While golf struggles to find a solution, I’ve taken it upon myself. The only way to accurately determine who are truly the best golfers in the world right now is to have a single person fuse different samplings of recent and historic results with data sets, betting markets and hours of grinding on film, topped with a dash of good old subjective opinion. At best, a Golf Rankings Czar. At worst, a benevolent dictator … for golf.

Even before LIV, when the best players in the world routinely squared off against each other on the same tour, there was still debate about the accuracy of the rankings. But guess what: That’s the beauty of rankings—it’s very rare to get a consensus opinion. The problem is, in our current situation, determining which players are better in a singular list is almost impossible. Extra weight should obviously be given to the four times a year all these golfers play in the same tournament. But just four events a year, albeit majors, provides an incredibly small sample of golf. Point being, the day after Jimmy Walker outlasted Jason Day at the 2016 PGA Championship, no one would have ranked Walker ahead of Day.

While recent form holds the most weight in these rankings, baseline skills, performance against the best and career trajectory are also important puzzle pieces needed to complete a macro view of the best players in the sport right now.

Methodology

Recent Form 30%
Majors/Strong Field Performance 20%
Statistical Profile 15%
Consistency 20%
Trajectory 10%
Betting Markets 5%

Rankings

TIER 1:

1. Scottie Scheffler

Probably the only player whose ranking doesn’t come with dispute. Even the LIV bots stopped fighting it. Despite an inability to consistently make five-foot putts, Scheffler’s still on an all-time pace over the past 18 months—peak Tiger Woods excluded—matched only by career best runs from Vijay Singh, David Duval and Ernie Els. Yes, he’s only claimed one major in the past two years, however he owns a pair of runner-up finishes along with a solo third over those eight events. Since the calendar flipped to 2023, Scheffler has made 27 total starts, posted four wins, 21 top 10s and hasn’t missed a cut. His worst finish was T-31 at the FedEx St. Jude to kick off the 2023 playoffs.

Tier 2:

2. Jon Rahm

Rahm’s current form speaks to the difficulty of attempting to decipher how LIV golfers fit into the rankings rubric. Rahm’s run from January 2023 through his Masters win was about at the current level of Scheffler’s play, which is among the all-time great stretches. But the Spaniard isn’t at that level anymore. Fortunately for him (something which he’ll never see or care about), knowing he has the potential to reach that level buys him a lot of time near the top of this list. Post-Masters victory last year, Rahm hasn’t won—on any tour. He got outrun by Finau in Mexico and back-doored a T-2 at The Open with an excellent Sunday but was never in contention to win another major. Since joining LIV, the results might look great (top 10s in every start), but he’s been at the top of the leaderboard coming down the stretch in most of his appearances and faltered each time.

3. Wyndham Clark

Since extra credit is always shelled out to players who excel in the strongest fields—and yes, it seems crazy to type this out—Wyndy C has been the best non-Scheffler player on the planet the past 12 months. He won the U.S. Open along with a pair of signature events coupled with runner-up performances at The Players and API. He threw in a third at the Tour Championship for fun, too. That's quite the rise in play from a guy who didn’t qualify for the match-play event a year ago, was forced to tee it up in the alternate event in Dominican Republic and has still yet to compete for a green jacket.

4. Hideki Matsuyama

Whatever issue he had with his driver in 2023 has been solved and, just like that, he’s back in the winner's circle for the first time in two years. He’ll always be an inconsistent putter, much like a lot of great players, but routinely gaining against the field off the tee, while mixing in upside spike weeks with his putter is a lethal match for the competition with how good his irons have been and his all-world short game. He played C- golf a year ago and still managed to finish no worse than T-32 in any major. With a win and three straight top 10s entering Augusta this year, he’s on the short list of those with the resume to knock Scheffler off the podium with a triumphant summer.

TIER 3

5. Brooks Koepka

Brooks is the true outlier. It matters not what he does in any tournament that’s not a major. He could come last in every LIV event, and he’d still be one of the betting favorites in the year’s biggest events. He lived up to the billing in 2023 with a win, T-2, T-17 and T-64 across the four majors. If he has a mediocre run at The Masters and PGA Championship, then he’ll fall on this list, but until that happens he’s firmly entrenched amongst the world’s elite.

6. Rory McIlroy

Rory is the anti-Brooks. He’s gained the third-most strokes in majors per round over the past two years, but despite his stellar play, he's still major-less going on a 10th year. In a way, though, it speaks to his level of play and the expectations his fans and even haters have for him. When Cam Smith finishes fourth at the U.S. Open, it’s a testament to him “still having it.” When Rory finishes second in the same tournament it’s evidence he’s “a loser who can’t win.” His constant presence on major leaderboards has earned him the label of “choker” in the past decade. For narrative purposes, Rory would actually be better off simply missing the cut. His longevity and consistency have proven to be his biggest enemy. Merely having the expectations that if he doesn’t win every tournament he plays it’s a massive disappointment speaks to why he continues to appear near the top of any list like this. He’s only down this far because of an inconsistent start to 2024, a year where he’s still one of the few top players who has actually notched a victory, mind you.

7. Xander Schauffele

Schauffele, aka Gagatha Christie, is in such a strange spot in the history books. If he wins a major, all the near misses will retroactively be a case for how good he has played and how he built up to that moment. Whereas, if he never wins, he’ll become a Lee Westwood-like All-Star and is instantly forgettable. Such a fine line. In reality, there are very few players who consistently play at such a high level every week. Xander has finished top 20 in seven straight majors, he owns eight top 10s in his past 11 starts, and lost strokes tee to green once since the 2022 playoffs.

8. Viktor Hovland

If these rankings were done at the end of 2023 there’s no doubt that Hovland would’ve been inside the top three. So, it’s tough to bump him down too far considering it’s only three months later. But it’s clear something is off with the Norwegian. Finally breaking through at Muirfield Village after a pair of near misses at Augusta and Oak Hill, and the Old Course the year before, Hovland went on to win the final two playoff events of the season and got himself a $40 million payday. Maybe the grind isn’t as fun anymore when you win that kind of money. After drastic improvements to his short game in the latter half of 2023, Viktor opened the year by firing his swing coach Joe Mayo. (No relation to me or the Seinfeld character of the same name.) As a result, he’s chipping worse than before. That was always fine because his ball-striking was elite. However, that too, has vanished. He’s still gaining against the field with his driver, just only at half the rate he was last summer. The biggest difference is on approach: Hovland gained +0.74 SG/approach per round in 2023, which was 13th on tour. He’s now losing 0.07 SG/approach per round in 2024, which ranks him 143rd.

TIER 4

9. Joaquin Niemann

Easily the most difficult player to rank. After wining three times in five starts between LIV and the DP World Tour, Niemann got earned invites from both Augusta and the PGA Championship based on his his accomplishments. He’s crashed the odds boards at Augusta, getting shorter each week as the masses continue to click his name and bet him to win. Maybe pump the breaks a little? Winning the Aussie Open and some LIV events doesn’t exactly mean Major Championship success. Based on recent form, it’s tough to argue that he’s not playing his best career golf entering this Major season, hence a lofty spot in the rankings, but lets remember this is the same guy who has one Top 20 finish in 19 Major appearances.

10. Cameron Smith

Essentially, the vision most have of Jordan Spieth in their heads is what Cam Smith is in reality. A mediocre driver with amazing touch around the greens who can nuke the entire field with his putter, and just needs his his irons to corporate enough in the same week. However, was his 2022, when he won The Open, PLAYERS, and Tournament of Champions, an aberration, where he capitalized on a heater like Molinari in 2019) or a sign of long lasting dominance? He’s won three times since joining LIV, and recently had his first good showing in 2024 in a playoff loss in Hong Kong, but at Major Championships, the downside of his driver makes his winning upside limited even if his immaculate short game makes his floor one of the safest in any field.

11. Will Zalatoris

Most were convicted Zalatoris was next in line to breakthrough and claim a Major in 2023. Then, he suffered a back injury and we didn’t see him again after THE PLAYERS in March. Still, no player is the field per round in Majors than Zalatoris the past two years. Not even Scheffler. He’s missed a lone cut in his eight Major starts against six Top 10 finishes. After consecutive Top 5 finishes at RIV and Bay Hill in signature events post-injury, it appears as he’s all the way recovered now and primed for the breakthrough once again.

12. Ludvig Aberg

If he starts dominating Majors his first time through no one is going to be surprised. The 24-year-old Swede is much like fellow Scandinavian Viktor Hovland as a prospect, expect Aberg’s better off the tee, on and around the greens. He broke the seal in Switzerland at the Omega European Masters last September which clinched his spot on the Ryder Cup team. He played great in Rome, and came back stateside and earned his maiden PGA win at the RSM Classic. Since leaving Hawaii, Aberg hasn’t finished worse than T25 in any of his five starts with three Top 10s. He’s yet to put all four rounds together against the elite field as of yet, but remember, he’s less than a year into playing on the TOUR full time. Aberg is someone most have pegged to win a Major sometime in the next three years; he may just skip the line if this keeps up.

13. Brian Harman

The reigning champion golfer probably be higher on the list have his triumph at Royal Liverpool and almost triumph at Sawgrass, but we just witnessed the best year he’s ever going to have. His lack of distance off the tee routinely have him drawing to an inside straight, and unless his irons and putter spike on the same week (something witch has happened five times in the last decade) he’s simply not going to win very often. He’s a very good player who can be great once or twice a year; better than most, certainly not elite.

14. Cameron Young

Just a reminder: Young is just starting his third year on the PGA TOUR. We expect so much from players immediately, it’s easy to forget the others like him who have come before. It wasn’t too long ago Scottie Scheffler was just someone who choked away every tournament for two years before he was being compared to Tiger Woods. Ditto for Finau. Ditto for Zalatoris. Ditto for Hovland. Young has actually skipped most of the stages the others had to go through and entered the Rory Zone: He puts himself in contention so often that he seems like he gags every tournament away. When looking at things objectively, Young has seven second place finishes in two years, along with Top 10 finishes in four of his last seven Major starts. That resume looks like someone’s who’s going to win at some point. A lot.

15. Sahith Theegala

He may hit it into someone’s back yard. Don’t worry about that, though; Sahith will find a way to scramble for par from there. He has the Spieth/Cam Smith magic scrambling gene in him except he drives the ball far better than either of them. The approach, different story. His irons are either great or horrible. No in-between. It’s led to a four Top 10s so far in 2024. A profile, in combination with a T9 in his Augusta debut, which makes him a legitimate dark horse to win a Green Jacket.

16. Collin Morikawa

Once a lock to find every fairway and finish in the 95th percentile on approach in every tournament, Morikawa has sputtered out of the gate in 2024, following his win in Japan to close 2023. The putter is equally as lousy as it has always been, but the irons are starting to get worrisome. From the beginning of February through March, he lost strokes to the field on approach in three of four tournaments. That had never happened in any stretch of starts in his career. Only one other time has he lost with his irons in consecutive starts like he just did at Bay Hill and Sawgrass, and that was the second and third start out of the COVID hiatus in 2020. Somethings off.

TIER 5

17. Dustin Johnson

DJ was an enigma before he left for LIV. Now, he may as well be DB Cooper. Since claiming the off-season Masters amidst an amazing run of golf, DJ has popped his head up at Majors about once a year. Last year, one hole essentially crippled any chance he had to win at LACC. His T6 at The Old Course in 2022 was devoid of any real contention at the top of the leaderboard. Yet, despite the spotty play (granted, he does have three LIV wins, including in Las Vegas in February), he still looms as a legitimate threat every time Major season comes around. He’ll inevitably flame out in most, but we’re still going to get some fun DJ runs at a third Major at some point.

18. Matt Fitzpatrick

The Brit has flashed elite skills in every facet of golf that it’s shocking he has dealt with so much inconsistency. In 2022, the year he added distance off the tee, Fitzpatrick’s plan resulted in a win at the US Open and 11 other Top 10s world wide to go with no finish worse than T21 in any Major championship. He lost strokes off the tee just once all season long. In the two years since, he’s battled that same driver which had become such a weapon. To the point where he recently discovered there was a training weight in his driver he’d forgotten about. But the extended bouts of disastrous iron play have killed his consistency. Fitz has gained on approach in just three of his last 14 PGA TOUR starts. Yet, when he flashes that iron upside, he has an innate ability to gather all of his game to peak at same time. We saw it at Harbour Town in a signature event last year, during the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last October, and even in his last start at THE PLAYERS. It’s just does’t happen enough these days.

19. Shane Lowry

If golf was like baseball, Lowry could hire a “designated putter” and have far more than one Major under his belt and more than zero wins in the USA since 2016. The Irishman’s tee-to-green game is among the world’s best, but the putter simply lets him down far too often. You can call him discount Scheffler (or Fancy Luke List) in that regard. And it seems to get worse in final rounds. Of 214 qualified players over the last three years on the PGA TOUR, Lowry ranks 205th in fourth round putting: -0.61 SG:PUTT/round. He’s finished with 18 Top 20s over that period.

20. Max Homa

After notching his first Top 10 in a Major at The Open, Homa proceeded to finish inside the Top 10 in every other event the rest of year. He even went international post Ryder Cup and won the Nedbank in South Africa. He started the year strong with T14/T13 results where the putter unusually failed him, an it’s like he left his ball striking somewhere on Torrey Pines and no patron was kind enough to return it to the pro shop. His driving has been horrendous and the irons nothing but average. He produced decent showings at RIV and Bay Hill T16/T8 but that was propped up by gaining almost nine strokes putting combined between those starts. He already has issues at Majors (you don’t celebrate your first Top 10 finish in one if you don’t), and now heads into this year amidst his worst T2G run since 2020.

21. Justin Thomas

It’s easy pointing to a round where JT loses seven strokes on the greens an declare he’ll never compete at the top levels again, especially after his disastrous 2023. It’s not encouraging, What is: his approach play. Thomas is fifth on TOUR in SG: APP so far 2024. The driver is back to riding the struggle bus. The putter simply doesn’t get hot anymore; it vacillates between frigid and luke-warm. But approach play is the most important trait any golfer can possess. As evidence by Thomas finishing Top 12 or better in four of seven 2024 starts and not gaining more than +0.6 SG: PUTT in any event. We just witnessed Scottie fix his broken putting over night, maybe JT is next?

22. Patrick Cantlay

Even when he starts out hot, Cantlay has an affinity for fading the longer he’s in contention. He has just one win the las three seasons, and his usual consistent paychecks have vanished in 2024. He’s lost strokes tee-to-green in four of his last five resulting in just a lone a Top 10 in sevens starts. For reference, he lost strokes T2G four times combining all of 2022 and 2023.

23. Tony Finau

Once a fixture on Major leaderboards (somewhere near the bottom of the first page, mind you), Finau hasn’t finished better than T26 in any of the past eight Majors. He’s won four times against weak PGA fields in that span (3M, Mexico, Rocket Mortgage, Houston), yet as the fields get stronger the performance got worse. And since his winning duel with Jon Rahm in Mexico last May, he’s lost the ability to putt. The ball striking has been legitimately elite in 2024, Top 10 on Tour elite, so if he can figure out the putting it’s possible he ascends once again, but he’s averaging losing -2.8 SG:PUTT over his past 10 starts dating back to last year.

24. Sam Burns

After four consecutive Top 10s to close the West Coast Swing, the water logged courses in Florida doubled as a magnet for his tee shots. Burns posted no result better than T30. Statistically, he flashes elite upside off the tee every few tournament and is one of the game’s best putters. His approach has taken a nose dive the the last 18 months, though. It’s not so bad he’s finishing dead last every time he tees it up, but it’s a long way from the peaks he was hitting during his run of six wins in three years. Yes, as many people forget, Sam Burns has six PGA TOUR wins. Since the conclusion of the 2022 FedEx Cup playoffs, Burns has gained over four strokes on approach just once. A stretch of 33 starts.

25. Bryson DeChambeau

Bryson’s unique skill set for elite driving and (sometimes) elite putting make him perfectly suited for longer, difficult courses. Which means he should always be live at the PGA Championship and US Open while drawing close to dead at The Masters and Open Championship or any other course which requires the touch and feel of a real boy. Too many uneven lies and weather conditions to calculate shot-to-shot. Unless The Open is at St. Andrews, of course, which has become a bombers haven. He’s a true one-of-one.

26. Tommy Fleetwood

Fleetwood won on the DP World Tour to kick off 2024 (after closing the year with a T-2 in the DP World Tour Championship) then came stateside and, I don’t know, snapped his clubs to make things tougher on himself? He’s gone through periods of poor iron play like this before, we just haven’t seen it since the end of 2021 bleeding into the start of 2022. That year, he eventually turned his game around at the Valspar and ended up grinding a T14 at The Masters and Top 5 finishes at the U.S. Open and Open Championship. So hope isn’t lost despite the poor few months.

27. Jordan Spieth

Spieth currently can’t hit an iron where he wants. Quite problematic when you’re not an elite driver. He has two Top 10s in 2024, but both came as a result of an incredibly hot putter. In starts where Spieth hasn’t gained at least five strokes putting his best finish is T30 at Bay Hill. It’s a far cry from this time last year when he routinely gaining eight or more strokes Tee-to-Green. Spieth will always be a threat at The Masters because Phil and Reed proved a year ago you don’t need any form if you understand the green complexes at Augusta, but it’s difficult to see him contending any where else until he fixes his ball striking.

28. Louis Oosthuizen*

It’s a shame Louis didn’t warrant an Augusta invite this year. He deserved it. Beyond his immaculate track record at the tournament, Louis played beyond LIV during the winter and picked up back-to-back wins in South Africa in DPWT/Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned tournaments, then rolled that over into the new year with two Top 10s on LIV, including a runner-up to Niemann in Jeddah, and another silver medal in Oman in an Asian Tour start. He’s the best player who’s not playing at Augusta. Apologies to Arnold Palmer Talor Gooch.

*Again, if we weren't clear above, Oosthuizen is not in the Masters field, so do not write him in any of your pools.

29. Tyrrell Hatton

Hatton had one of the most underrated seasons, maybe ever, in 2023. After starting the year with consecutive Top 10s in the Middle East, he cranked out another 15 Top 20s over his next 21 starts. Didn’t sniff a Major, but had four Top 6 finishes in signature events and Top 20s at the PGA Championship and Open. Then he left for LIV and has become somewhat forgotten. It’s not really his fault, he just happened to jump at the same time as Jon Rahm and that’s what we all paid attention to. He’ produced just one Top 10 on LIV and has gotten worse in every start.

30. Nick Taylor

There were a lot of other names who could have wiggled their way into the final spot, but why not reward Taylor who has won twice in the past eight months? His approach play has been uber consistent since the calendar flipped to 2024 and he seems to have figured out the driver enough so it’s no longer actively sabotaging his performance. His Major track record is awful but he’s played well enough at the signature events to warrant the final spot for the time being.

THE NEXT 20:

Russell Henley
Si Woo Kim
Corey Conners
Tom Kim
Sungjae Im
*Abe Ancer
Min Woo Lee
Matthieu Pavon
Byeong Hun An
*Paul Casey
Jason Day
Keegan Bradley
Harris English
Adam Scott
*Talor Gooch
Justin Rose
Sepp Straka
Lucas Glover
Kurt Kitayama
*Dean Burmester

*Not in the Masters

Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. Mayo helped create the golf stats and research website Fantasy National along with the Race for the Mayo Cup One and Done contest. Mayo won the 2022 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and is a finalist for three FSWA Awards in 2023 (Best Podcast, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 27 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are second-most all-time. Follow him on Twitter: @ThePME.