7 underrated golfers to watch out for in 2018

Jhonattan Vegas
USA Today Sports Images
With fields on the PGA Tour so deep these days, often times players slip under the radar. Here's a look at seven underrated players you'll want to keep an eye on in 2018.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
Connect with T.J.

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Thursday, December 07, 2017 | 11:51 a.m.

Since the PGA Tour is just so deep with talent these days, it's an unfortunate truth that certain players get overlooked.

The fact is, virtually any player on Tour can bust out and win on any given week. We see it happen all the time.

RELATED: Best golf celebrations in 2017 | Best major moments in 2017

Before the calendar year flips to 2018, here's a look at seven players who seem to slip under the radar at times, but could certainly make a lot of noise over the next 12 months.

7. Bill Haas

Notes: You might be surprised to hear this, but the 35-year-old is actually a six-time PGA Tour winner. His last Tour victory came at the 2015 Humana Challenge. In his career, Haas also won the 2011 FedExCup and earned the winning point for the U.S. Presidents Cup team at the 2015 matches in South Korea, where the Americans were captained by Bill's dad, Jay Haas. It can't be easy for the son of a successful PGA Tour player to follow that same path as dad, but Bill Haas has done so... and spectacularly. He doesn't have the flash of a lot of the game's younger stars and maybe that's why he doesn't get the attention he deserves. One thing missing from the younger Haas' resume? A Ryder Cup start. No doubt he'll have that on the mind throughout 2018.

6. Jhonattan Vegas

Notes: Vegas has three victories on the PGA Tour, including two at the RBC Canadian Open (2016-17). Vegas rose to No. 35 in the Official World Golf Ranking in 2017 -- the highest of his career -- and also became the first player from Venezuela to compete in the Presidents Cup when he did so at Liberty National in 2017. Along with his wins, Vegas has had a number of close calls. It's a wonder that his name isn't mentioned more when it comes to players to watch.

5. Patrick Cantlay

Notes: There were high hopes for Cantlay -- now 25 -- right from the jump when he turned pro in 2012. The UCLA product spent a whopping 55 weeks at the No. 1 spot in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. In 2011, one week after finishing as the low amateur at the U.S. Open, Cantlay fired the lowest round in PGA Tour history by an amateur when he shot a course record 60 at the Travelers Championship. Injuries and a tragedy (he watched as his caddie was killed in 2016 during a hit-and-run accident) marred the start of Cantlay's career. But, things look as though they're coming together now. He qualified for the Tour Championship with just 13 starts in 2016-17 and he won for the first time at the 2017 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Cantlay could be in position for a big 2018.

4. Kevin Chappell

Notes: The 31-year-old Chappell is really coming into his own these last few years. After 180 PGA Tour starts and six runner-up finishes, Chappell earned his first win at the 2017 Valero Texas Open, taking down Brooks Koepka with a birdie on the 72nd hole. Chappell tied for third -- his best finish in a major -- at the 2011 U.S. Open. And in the 2017 Masters, he finished a career-best T7 at Augusta National. Early in the fall, Chappell also made his U.S. Presidents Cup team debut and contributed 1.5 points to the winning side. We'll see how he carries the momentum into the new year.

3. Pat Perez

Notes: Some guys are just late bloomers. That could be the case with Perez, who also had a past history of, how shall we say, "getting hot under the collar," quite frequently, which was a road block. In his late-30s and early-40s, however, the now 41-year-old Perez is playing the best golf of his career. Having fought back from injury, the Arizona State product who turned pro in 1997 has victories in each of the last two seasons and climbed to a career-best 20th in the Official World Golf Ranking in 2017. Look for Perez to make more noise in 2018.

2. Paul Casey

Notes: It is unbelievable to me that Casey has just one PGA Tour win on his resume (to go against his 13 on the European Tour). What's even more surprising is that it came way back at the 2009 Shell Houston Open. He just always seems to be in the mix and that was certainly the case in 2016-17. In 24 starts, Casey made the cut 23 times, finished inside the top 25 17 times and in the top 10, nine times. Casey played all four majors in 2017. His worst finish in those starts? That would be 26th at the U.S. Open. His best? A sixth-place showing at the Masters. That made it three straight years at Augusta National where Casey has finished no worse than T6. Not only is Casey a threat to win a PGA Tour event in 2018, he's also a threat to claim that coveted first major. He's got nine top-10 finishes in the four big ones over the course of his career.

1. Kevin Kisner

Notes: Kisner is establishing himself as a regular on the first page of PGA Tour leaderboards. He has two Tour wins in his career, most recently at Colonial in 2017. Kisner also carried a one-shot lead into the final round of the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow before ultimately finished in a tie for seventh. He made a great partner for Phil Mickelson at the Presidents Cup in 2017 as well. Something tells me that Kisner is going to turn a couple of those close calls into wins in 2018.
 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.