The Rookies Are Coming: Five Tour Graduates to Watch in 2017-18

The 2017-18 PGA Tour campaign kicks off on Thursday…just two weeks removed from last season’s season finale. Wow, that’s a quick turnaround.

It’s also a fast transition for former Tour competitors who just completed their season and earned PGA Tour cards. Many will be featured in this week’s Safeway Open field, and there’s potential for several to grab an early win with the current form they’re on.

The next PGA Tour Rookie of the Year race is on. Who will be this year’s Xander Schauffele? The list below is a great starting point.

Peter Uihlein

Uihlein revived his career this season on the Web, winning the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship for his first professional victory in the United States.

The 28-year-old will be considered a PGA Tour rookie despite 30 career starts, which is crazy, but this will officially be his first full season on the big stage. Uihlein has produced three top-six finishes on Tour all-time. However, he has never earned an extended opportunity to showcase his talent until now.

Uihlein has always had the skill going back to his teenage years. He was the top-ranked amateur in the world after winning the 2010 U.S. Amateur and was a standout Walker Cup competitor – recording a 4-0 match record in 2009.

Among the Tour graduates, Uihlein owns the greatest pedigree and is the frontrunner to be the next Rookie of the Year.

Chesson Hadley

Selecting Hadley to this list is an obvious choice, given his past track record on the PGA Tour. The veteran has one win against elite competition at the Puerto Rico Open in 2014 and also has seven top 10s dating back to his rookie season the same year.

After a disappointing 2016, Hadley was forced back to the Tour. He embraced the demotion and used it to improve, and as a result, earned over $550,000 in earnings to place well above the second-place finisher.

His success last season should carry over to 2016-17. Expect a solid showing from Hadley beginning this fall.

Tom Lovelady

Despite finishing his slate with three consecutive missed cuts, Lovelady is a name to watch in 2017-18.

He’s another promising University of Alabama product who earned five top 10s last season and will earn more of those accolades throughout his PGA Tour stretch run coming up.

It may take time at first, given the fact Lovelady has never played on the PGA Tour. Once the nerves calm, Lovelady has the ability to shoot very low scores. On the Web, he was third in birdies (347) and first in putting average (1.706).

Sam Ryder

Ryder is a player who jumped off the page on stat leaderboards, ranking first in total driving and is an excellent ball striker.

The highlight of his Tour season came at the Pinnacle Bank Championship where he not only won but dominated the field and cleared them by eight strokes. He also earned six top 10s and 10 top 25s.

There’s a lot to like about Ryder and he’s the kind of player who can make an immediate impact.

Keith Mitchell

Mitchell joins a long line of former Georgia Bulldogs to enter the PGA Tour, and given their success rate, odds are he’ll become a steady contender.

Like another UGA alum Bubba Watson, Mitchell is a bomber. He finished fourth on the Tour in driving distance at 321 yards and also has an impressive all-around game.

Mitchell is only 25-years-old, so there’s still room to grow. But last season, he only missed five cuts in 22 starts, and even though he didn’t reach the winner’s circle, Mitchell was a top 10 finisher in six tournaments.

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