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The Excitement Scale: Ranking the PGA Tour’s 65 most watchable pros

January 23, 2020

Mental exercise time: Picture a professional golfer. Imagine that person about to hit a shot on your television. It can be a drive, an approach, a putt, whatever. He’s addressing the ball, his practice swings are over and contact is imminent. Now ask yourself this: Can you look away?

Repeat that process for about 200 golfers, and you’ll approach the task I undertook in devising the first “Excitement Scale” for PGA Tour golfers. The ranking is about talent, but it’s also about personality, charisma and context—based on recent events, for instance, I’m sure I’ve placed Cameron Smith wayyyy too high. But right now, in January 2020, he’s fascinating. Just by making this list, these men have already survived the initial cut that weeded out the nondescript. Each of these players is compelling by nature and by talent, and rest in the upper echelons of the sport’s watchability metric.

But who is the best of the best? Let’s find out, golfer by golfer, tier by tier, starting with …

The “His Name is Jazz, and That’s Enough” Tier

65: Jazz Janewattananond (Important note: His name is Jazz.)


Eurasia Sport Images

The “His Name is Maverick, and That’s Enough” Tier

64: Maverick McNealy (Important note: His name is Maverick.)

The “Quiet Lately, But Definitely ‘Unique’ Enough to Make the List on Reputation Alone” Tier

63: Keegan Bradley
62: Grayson Murray
61: Victor Dubuisson
60: Bubba Watson
59: Matt Every

The “He Won a Major Last Year, So You Can’t Leave Him Off, Plus He Looks Just Like the Best Golfer on the Planet” Tier

58: Gary Woodland

The “Things Have Been Better, But This Dude Is Legitimately Funny and That Matters” Tier

57: Pat Perez
56: Chesson Hadley
55: Max Homa

147th Open Championship - Round Two

Stuart Franklin

The “Very Talented, But I’m in Danger of Being Lulled to Sleep” Tier

54: Marc Leishman
53: Louis Oosthuizen
52: Daniel Berger
51: Hideki Matsuyama

The “His Brother Got a Raw Deal So I Hope He Sticks it to Everyone” Tier

50: Danny Willett

The “Pure Unbridled Rage Potential” Tier

49: Tyrrell Hatton


Mike Ehrmann

The “Pure Unbridled Energy Potential, Which Includes Rage” Tier

48: Billy Horschel

The “I Don’t Care if They’re Playing or Not, This Person Will Always Be Interesting” Tier

47: Jason Dufner
46: Miguel Angel Jimenez

The “Hmmm, What Could This Next Swing Say About Potential Captain’s Picks?” Tier

45: Padraig Harrington
44: Steve Stricker

The “Write Him Off, and He’ll Win a Major at a Famous Course” Tier

43: Zach Johnson


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The “I Want to Care More, But You Have to Make Me” Tier

42: Matthew Fitzpatrick
41: Tony Finau
40: Cameron Champ

The “Seemingly Nondescript/Good, But Might Throw You a Massive Curveball” Tier

39: Webb Simpson

The “Staid Gentlemen/Class Act/Pro’s Pro/High Character/Gracious Fellows” Tier

38: Adam Scott
37: Justin Rose


Bradley Kanaris

The “Old, Wily, Brilliant Ryder Cup Dudes Who Will Never, Ever Go Away and Will Still Be Playing High Level Golf When You’re Dead and Gone” Tier

36: Ian Poulter
35: Paul Casey
34: Lee Westwood
33: Graeme McDowell

The “I Guarantee You Something Weird Will Happen With This Guy Within, Like, a Month” Tier

32: Kevin Na

Shriners Hospitals For Children Open - Final Round

Tom Pennington

The “I Am Now Very Interested in You Because of the Presidents Cup” Tier

31: C.T. Pan
30: Adam Hadwin
29: Joaquin Niemann
28: Sungjae Im
27: Abraham Ancer

The “You Used to Be Cool, But Now We Know Too Much, Yet We Must Watch” Tier

26: Matt Kuchar
25: Sergio Garcia

The “Most Inspiring Comeback” Tier

The “Please Have an Inspiring Comeback” Tier

23: Jordan Spieth

The Northern Trust - Round One

Kevin C. Cox

The “Wild Young Guns Who Will Deliver America From Ryder Cup Damnation” Tier

22: Collin Morikawa
21: Matthew Wolff

The “Wild Young Gun Who Will Send America Right Back to Ryder Cup Damnation” Tier

20: Viktor Hovland

The “Compelling Normally, but Beyond Compelling in a Ryder Cup Year” Tier

19: Francesco Molinari
18: Tommy Fleetwood

The “Future Fleetwoods and Molinaris of America” Tier

17: Xander Schauffele
16: Patrick Cantlay

The “Extreme Talent That Maybe Burns a Little Too Bright” Tier

15: Jon Rahm

The “Extreme Talent That Maybe Burns a Little Too Soft” Tier

14: Jason Day

The “Please Let This Guy Be Extremely Good Again, I Love Him, Can’t You See I Love Him?” Tier

13: Henrik Stenson

The “Dear God Just Win a Major to Stop the Ceaseless Soul-Killing Discourse” Tier

12: Rickie Fowler


Kevin C. Cox

The “Talent Goes a Long Way” Tier

11: Dustin Johnson

The “Patrick Reed’s Understudy” Tier

10: Bryson DeChambeau

The “Became Fascinating Almost Overnight, and We Want More” Tier

The “Match Play Genius Who Will Almost Certainly Be Snubbed for the Ryder Cup Yet Again” Tier

8: Kevin Kisner


The “What Will it Take to Get My Editors to Set Up Some Kind of Story Where I Drink Lots of Beer With This Man and We End Up Singing Irish Songs on Top of a Table?” Tier

7: Shane Lowry

The “This Tier is Reserved For Phil Mickelson Until He Dies, and Possibly Beyond” Tier

6: Phil Mickelson

The “Just Wait … When All Is Said and Done, I’m the Alpha” Tier

5: Justin Thomas


Warren Little

The “Delicious, Possibly Historic Rivalry of the Next Decade” Tier

4: Rory McIlroy or Brooks Koepka
3: Brooks Koepka or Rory McIlroy

The “Villain Who Wouldn’t Be Believable in a Work of Fiction” Tier

2: Patrick Reed

The "Eternal Golf God Who Will Command Our Attention Until the Universe Implodes" Tier

1: Tiger Woods


J.D. Cuban