There are 27 rookies on the PGA TOUR in 2021-22. This page provides a subjective ranking updated weekly. The Arnold Palmer Award winner is determined in a vote by PGA TOUR members who make at least 15 starts. The Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup and the Olympic Games count as one of the 15.
One of the rights of passage for almost all rookies is surviving the rigor of one’s position in the overall pecking order.
A large percentage of tournaments (primarily opens) cut off entry in the Korn Ferry Tour graduate reshuffle category of the Priority Ranking. Of this season’s class of 27, only Mito Pereira is exempt from the category. When he captured his third victory during the expanded 2020-21 KFT season, he not only qualified immediately as a PGA TOUR member, but he also earned an automatic promotion to a higher, smaller category on the 2021-22 PGA TOUR in which three-time KFT winners from the previous season are eligible. It’s why he wasn’t eligible to compete in the KFT Finals.
The Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open hosted only 132 golfers. That’s typical for a tournament with one course at that latitude in November. (Heck, even the Sony Open in Hawaii in mid-January has enough daylight for only 144 entrants.) Predictably, the cutoff for entry at Memorial Park Golf Course landed in the top half of the graduate reshuffle. When the field went official on Friday, Nov. 5, John Huh at 19th was first alternate, but he and second alternate Max McGreevy gained entry when defending champion Carlos Ortiz and Emiliano Grillo withdrew on Tuesday.
The field seemed set when the sun dropped on Wednesday, but Seung-Yul Noh was a last-minute WD on Thursday morning due to a back injury. That opened the door for Alex Smalley, who didn’t squander the opportunity.
Smalley went on to pace 15 rookies with a four-way share of 15th place worth 52 FedExCup points and $125,625.00. Not too shabby for any start much less one that probably felt like a bonus when he pierced the turf on Thursday morning.
Smalley is the sixth different rookie to lead his class in as many events in which rookies have competed this season. Each of the top five below has done it, as well as Aaron Rai (T15, Mayakoba).
Every rookie has gained entry into The RSM Classic this week. If none withdraws before the first round, it’ll be the first time this season that all rookies have competed in the same tournament. And dismissing last season’s modest class of three rookies, it would be the first time since an entire class of true rookies lined up beside each other in the same week since the last edition of the Greenbrier event in 2019.
The RSM Classic also the final tournament in the first phase of the season-long reordering of the KFT graduate reshuffle. Sea Island has been welcoming to rookies in recent years, so some last-minute maneuvering is all but guaranteed. In the last four editions with rookies in its field (2016-2019), and concerning only the rookies, there have been two winners (Mackenzie Hughes, 2016; Austin Cook, 2017) among nine top 10s and 15 top 25s.
LOW ROOKIE: Alex Smalley (T15). First time.
CAREER-BEST FINISHES (AND TIES): Max McGreevy (T19)
* - In the field at The RSM Classic as of Nov. 14.
Through the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open
Rank Name FedExCup Rank Best Finish Starts Cuts Made Top 10s 1 *Hayden Buckley 29 T4 4 3 2 2 *Mito Pereira 21 3rd 6 5 1 3 *Taylor Pendrith T49 T5 6 4 1 4 *Cameron Young 24 T2 3 1 1 5 *Alex Smalley 51 T12 5 4 - 6 *Davis Riley 69 T7 6 3 1 7 *Sahith Theegala 76 T8 5 4 1 8 *Chad Ramey 72 T14 5 3 - 9 *Aaron Rai 78 T15 6 3 - 10 *Taylor Moore 93 T17 4 2 - 11 *Curtis Thompson 92 T7 5 1 1 12 *Greyson Sigg 86 T22 6 4 - 13 *Nick Hardy 123 T26 3 2 - 14 *Max McGreevy 129 T19 4 2 - 15 *Andrew Novak 136 T22 4 2 - 16 *Lee Hodges 124 T27 5 4 - 17 *Justin Lower 125 T17 2 1 - 18 *David Lipsky T142 T22 5 1 - 19 *Paul Barjon 151 T39 3 2 - 20 *Matthias Schwab 155 T35 3 2 - 21 *David Skinns 156 T34 3 2 - 22 *Dylan Wu T163 T46 3 2 - 23 *Brandon Wu 160 T34 4 1 - 24 *Austin Smotherman T208 T66 2 1 - T25 *Joshua Creel n/a MC 2 - - T25 *Callum Tarren n/a MC 3 - - T25 *Jared Wolfe n/a MC 4 - -
NOTE: A player’s rookie season ("Rookie Year") is defined as the season in which he becomes a PGA TOUR member (including Special Temporary Members) and plays in 10 or more events as a member or finishes in the Top 125 on the Official FedExCup Points List or qualifies as a Top 125 non-member, whichever occurs first. Further, for purposes of this definition, a new member (including Special Temporary Members) shall not be eligible to be a rookie if he has previously played in more than seven (7) Official PGA TOUR Money events as a professional in any prior season.