Weekly PGA Recap: Power Knapp

Weekly PGA Recap: Power Knapp

This article is part of our Weekly PGA Recap series.

The 2024 PGA Tour season has been nothing if not ironic, though let's also sprinkle in a little bit of schadenfreude.

With bigger purses and smaller fields, the schedule was all but gerrymandered to favor the top guys. Yet nearly two months into the year, tournaments are being dominated -- and won -- by decidedly lesser guys.

If this were Hollywood, they'd call it "Revenge of the Mules."

Twenty-nine-year-old Tour rookie and former nightclub bouncer Jake Knapp put on a ball-striking display reminiscent of world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler in just his ninth Tour start to win the Mexico Open on Sunday at Vidanta Vallarta. That makes it seven times in eight tournaments so far in 2024 that a long shot has won on the PGA Tour.

Knapp gained nearly 12 shots on the field combined in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (about three) and SG: Approach (about nine) to beat another rookie, Finland's Sami Valimaki, by two strokes to zoom to No. 52 in the world. But if you take the ranking of all eight Tour winners entering the week they won, it would average out to No. 577 in the world. For all you dart throwers, lottery players and conspiracy theorists out there, No. 577 in the world entering the week was 43-year-old former top-100 golfer Wade Ormsby of Australia.

Knapp joins now former amateur Nick Dunlap and Matthieu Pavon as rookies to win this year, plus journeyman Grayson Murray, along with more accomplished players Chris Kirk, Wyndham Clark, Nick Taylor and Hideki Matsuyama. Only Clark was in the top-50 in the world rankings at the time of his win. All but Matsuyama had opening odds of 100-1 or greater, and even he went off in triple digits heading into the final round of last week's Genesis Invitational.

Knapp had been creeping into relevance after spending four years on PGA Tour Canada and two on the Korn Ferry Tour, from which he graduated this year. He made the cut at the Sony, missed at the Amex, tied for third at the Farmers and tied for 28th at Phoenix, moving from No. 174 in the world at the beginning of the year to 101st entering Mexico.

A look at Knapp's stats show the win was not necessarily a fluke, despite the weakest field of the season. He is now ranked 64th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, 13th in Approach, 47th in Around-the-Green and 39th in Putting. Those are all good to great rankings, and then when you throw in the fact that he ranks 11th in driving distance and what we have here could be a well-rounded player finally maturing later than most golfers. Knapp is also ranked fifth in club head speed at more than 123 mph.

Not even two months into 2024, three rookies have won, matching the entire elongated 2022-23 season.

That's not how everyone expected things to play out with a stronger emphasis put on smaller-field Signature tournaments, especially when they were heavily weighted toward the beginning of the season with three of the eight already having been played.
"Pretty surreal, to be honest," Knapp told reporters in Mexico. "We talked about it at the beginning of the year with the Farmers, with what happened at Farmers and basically barely getting into Waste Management and not being into AT&T and then not being into Riviera. It was just like, man, this is going to be really tough to play into these Signature Events unless you win."

Now, Knapp, the Costa Mesa, Calif., native and UCLA alum, is into the five remaining Signature Events beginning at Bay Hill in two weeks, plus the Masters, and will have his PGA Tour card through the 2026 season.

That's a far cry from 2021, when he couldn't get out of Q School and wound up working "security," as he called it, at a nightclub in Costa Mesa. 

What was his strategy?

"Try not to let people hurt other people inside the bar, and if they want to, push them into the parking lot."

We can see that Knapp is a good problem solver -- in bars and on the golf course.


Sami Valimaki
Valimaki is another Tour rookie, a 25-year-old Finn who made his way over from the DP World Tour. Valimaki won last year on the European circuit and was ranked 110th coming in, so he surely has some game. He ranked ninth in SG: Putting, 12th in Approach, 19th in Off-the-Tee and 23rd in Around-the-Green for the week, and that will play just about anywhere. Valimaki moved to the top of the Aon Swing 5 standings, so he is well positioned to get into the next Signature Event at Bay Hill in two weeks.

Stephan Jaeger
Jaeger tied for third, which is where he also finished at the Farmers last month, and is 5-for-5 in cuts in 2024. He also has 22 in a row going back to last year, the fourth-longest active streak on Tour, behind only this pretty good trio: Xander Schauffele at 39 and Scheffler and Viktor Hovland, both at 30. Jaeger is up to a career-high 63rd in the world.

C.T. Pan
Pan had missed the cut in his first two starts in 2024 after missing the cut or withdrawing from his final four starts of 2023. So, of course, he tied for third in Mexico. We could say this is the start of a turnaround, but it's probably not. It's just something that happened out of the blue. Still, it was enough for Pan to fulfill his major medical extension, which is a huge deal for him.
Justin Lower
Lower notched his best career finish on the PGA Tour, tying for third. It was his 70th career start. He's now 5 for 5 in made cuts in 2024.

Patrick Rodgers
Rodgers has made 257 career starts on the PGA Tour, and he just saw another guy win a tournament before he has. But he's having a good start to 2024, after a very good 2022-23 season got him into all this year's Signature Events. Granted, Rodgers didn't play well at Pebble Beach (T79) or Riviera (MC), but in his other four starts this year he has two top-10s and two top-25s. The latest was a T6 – he now has top-10s in all three Mexico Opens.

Robert MacIntyre
MacIntyre's start as a PGA Tour member had not gone smoothly, with three missed cuts and a T52 (at the Sony). But the Scottish Ryder Cupper had a great week in Mexico, tying for sixth. He's off to a good start in the latest Aon Swing 5, but he'll need to show something in stronger fields going forward.

Carson Young
Young is the second best C. Young on the PGA Tour. He also was low C. Young in Mexico. Kidding aside, the 29-year-old Clemson alum recorded the third top-10 in his brief PGA Tour career (41 starts) with a tie for eighth. Young has made four straight cuts, including a T17 at the Amex. He's ranked 14th in SG: Approach, which indicates there could be more good weeks ahead.

Doug Ghim
Golf Twitter has a love/hate relationship with Ghim (candidly, more hate than love). A pretty good ball striker in his young career -- and very good so far this year -- he's often been thwarted by his putter. He didn't putt great in Mexico (ranked 44th) but was awesome on approach (fourth), giving him a tie for eighth. That's his third career top-10 in 121 starts.

Andrew Novak
Novak opened 2024 with three straight missed cuts but now has a pair of top-10s. Talk about a full house! He has twin T8s at Phoenix and now Mexico. Novak is ranked seventh on Tour in SG: Approach and sixth in Around-the-Green -- both elite rankings and good enough to generate more good finishes. The other areas of his game are problematic.

Erik van Rooyen
van Rooyen was among the more accomplished golfers in this field, so a top-10 (T8) does not move the needle for him as much as Young or Ghim or Novak. But he does have four top-25s in six starts in 2024, and that does move the needle.

Chan Kim
The 33-year-old Korn Ferry grad by way of Arizona State and South Korea, Kim has eight worldwide wins – mostly in Asia. That ain't nothing. He now has his first PGA Tour top-10 (T8). He's a very accurate driver and does a lot of things fairly well, but the jump to the biggest tour in the world is as big as it gets, and we'll see how he does in better fields.

Tony Finau
The defending champion and clearly the class of the field, Finau has been slumping since his win here last April. He tied for 13th this time around, meaning he is still without a top-5 since that win.

Maverick McNealy
McNealy continues to play well in his return from a shoulder injury that cost him much of last year. He tied for 13th.

Brandon Wu
Wu tied for 13th, after a runner-up and a third here the past two years. Note to self: Pick Wu in the 2025 Mexico Open.

Ben Silverman
After a brilliant 63 on Saturday vaulted Silverman up the leaderboard into the top-5, he couldn't sustain it on Sunday. He was nine shots worse and fell into a tie for 13th. Now, if you asked the journeyman at the start of the week if he'd be okay with a T13, he'd have been all over it. But this way, it's not so great. The Korn Ferry grad was eyeing his first career PGA Tour top-5, but he'll have to settle for his second top-25 of 2024, which ain't bad.

Nicolai Hojgaard
Hojgaard, the second-best golfer in the field behind Finau, never got anything going and tied for 52nd.

Padraig Harrington
The Champions Tour star is now 52 years old. He made the cut in Mexico (T52) and he made seven of eight last year.


Ryan Fox, Taylor Pendrith, Thomas Detry, Mackenzie Hughes, Charley Hoffman. These guys were all a bit of a surprise based on the strength of the field and the fact that about half the 132-man field would the cut. Maybe Pendrith was the biggest surprise, as he already had two top-10s in 2024. Now he also has three missed cuts for another lukewarm golf full house.

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Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for nine years. Len is a three-time winner of the FSWA DFS Writer of the Year Award (2020, '22 and '23) and a five-time nominee (2019-23). He is also a writer and editor for MLB Advanced Media.
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