(courtesy: mirrior.co.uk)

Tragically, winter has come. The cold and snow and harsh, horrible hell that is the cold, white abyss of winter has arrived. Golf? Oh, it seems so far away — but for those who are looking to dominate their fantasy golf leagues come January must stay focused. The work begins now.

Just because the PGA Tour is off until January 4th and the only golf being played on American soil is meaningless doesn’t mean you can’t be thinking about Fantasy golf.

In fact, if you’re a serious player and you’re NOT thinking about fantasy right now, you’re being lapped and you’re wish for 2018 may end up being for a mulligan.

Now that names 40-26 have been released, it’s time to delve into a handful of names who should already be on the minds of any good fantasy player — or anyone who wants to be a better fantasy player.

While this portion of the list includes a major winner and Tour winners, it also includes a few guys who need to take the next step in their careers sooner rather than later and a few who have turned heads — but still have question marks regarding their consistency and fantasy reliability.

25. Xander Schauffele 

At this time last year, anyone who told you to watch out for Xander Schauffele in 2017 was either related to him, insane or perhaps actually Xander Schauffele. Twelve months later, he’s the reigning PGA Tour rookie of the year, a two-time PGA Tour winner and Tour Champion. So what does Schauffele do for an encore in 2018? Obviously, only time will tell — but there are plenty of predictions out there. Many believe he’s experience the Sophomore slump that plagues so many — others have him entering 2019 as a major champion. One thing is clear — Schauffele has the game to stick around and compete week in and week out. From a fantasy standpoint, he’s one of the few guys outside the Spieth-DJ-Thomas-Fowler-Day-McIlroy realm who, if chosen, I can’t really argue against it. As far as my prediction goes for Schauffele, I think major glory is still slightly out of reach — but he’ll certainly add to his career win total.

24. Hideki Matsuyama 

Quite possibly the best player on Tour without a major victory, Hideki Matsuyama enters the 2018 season with a little something to prove. Already the greatest Japanese player to tee it up stateside, Matsuyama is still trying to become the first player from his native Japan to capture a major title. Perhaps it’s that pressure that has kept Matsuyama from glory? Perhaps it’s something else? Regardless, Matsuyama is as consistent as anyone on Tour and enjoyed a career year in 2017. He collected his best ever finish in a major at the U.S. Open (T-2) and finished no worse than 14th in any of them. He also collected three of his five career Tour wins during the campaign.

As is the case for many, the question for Matsuyama in 2018 will be whether or not he can sustain the momentum from the previous year. Personally, I don’t see any reason to doubt he’ll be anything but even better in the new year. For those looking for a bandwagon to jump on early, it’s probably this one.

23. Sergio Garcia 

The only current major champion in this portion of our Top 40 players to watch is Sergio Garcia. After finally, FINALLY shedding the title “best player to never win a major” at the Masters last April, Garcia celebrated, got married, announced he was going to become a Dad and played wildly mediocre golf. That said, I don’t think a soul on Earth can blame him, I don’t think he cares and neither he, nor you, nor I ought to be worried about it. First of all, he had a very busy 2017 after April and no one can fault the guy for having a well-rounded life off the course or celebrating a major title that was a LONG time coming. Second, he’s not old by golf standards. He’ll be 38 on January 9th — perhaps beyond the prime of his career, but there’s still plenty of tread on the tires.

As always with the swashbuckling Spaniard, the key here it vigilance. When he’s hot, he’s hard to pass up. When he’s cold, he’s to be avoided like the plague. Rarely does he lose or find form in the blink of an eye. With Sergio, you can almost always see it — good or bad — coming.

22. Morgan Hoffman 

Largely a fringe player for most of his professional career, Morgan Hoffman enters 2018 with much to prove and much to overcome. The former No.1 ranked amateur golfer in the land, Hoffman made headlines this off season/shoulder season after he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. Many of his peers and fans all over sent well wishes to Hoffman who is adamant that he will be back in 2018 and ready to compete at the highest level despite his diagnosis.

Morgan Hoffman is a personal favorite of mine and someone I root for on a weekly basis and that will only continue in 2018 in light his diagnosis, as well as the fact that he has too much talent to remain on the periphery.  As previously stated, he’s a former amateur No. 1 who has enjoyed modest success on Tour. Last year during the Florida swing, Hoffman collected his career-best finish  — a T-2 at the Honda Classic. Here’s to hoping he can continue his climb in 2018 — but, realistically, you should tread lightly until he shows some real signs of life from a fantasy standpoint.

21. Marc Leishman

Perhaps the best player you’ve never really heard of is Marc Leishman. I have long been on the Leishman bandwagon; pretty much ever since he finished T-4 at the Masters — a tournament I incorrectly-but-almost-correctly picked him to win. The Aussie has all the game in the world but for some reason seems to be a forgotten stalwart in fantasy circles.

In 2017, few players were as consistently productive as Leishman, who posted 16 top-25 finishes while missing just three cuts. He also won the BMW Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational and grabbed his third T-6 or better finish in the last four Open Championships. To say he’s riding a high into the new campaign is an understatement. Leishman ought to be on everyone’s short list each week in 2018.

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