Jordan Spieth is the clear favorite for this year’s player-of-the-year awards, but he doesn’t have the award locked up. There’s still a lot of golf left to be played, starting with this week’s Southern Highlands Collegiate, one of the year’s major events. A victory for any of the top contenders would help them catch Spieth. Here’s a look at the top 10 players in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, and what they need to do to catch Texas’ super freshman (Note: Todd Baek, No. 10 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, has turned pro). Players listed in order of Golfweek ranking:
1. Jordan Spieth, Texas
Golfstat ranking: 1
Strength of schedule: 1
First-place finishes: Isleworth Collegiate Invitational; Amer Ari Invitational*
Worst finish: 15th, Western Refining All-American
The skinny: Spieth hasn’t finished worse than sixth in a team event (the Western Refining is for individuals), all while playing the nation’s toughest schedule. It’s his award to lose. He’ll be tough to catch if he wins once more this season.
2. Dylan Frittelli, Texas
Golfstat ranking: 3
Strength of schedule: 4
First-place finishes: 0
Worst finish: 12th, Puerto Rico Classic
The skinny: Frittelli’s steady play, including three runners-up, has been impressive, but he’ll need some wins to catch his teammate. He’s 2-3 against Spieth this season.
3. Eugene Wong, Oregon
Golfstat ranking: 2
Strength of schedule: 90
First-place finishes: Alister Mackenzie
Worst finish: 23rd, Amer Ari
The skinny: Wong already has won the Nicklaus Award once (in 2010). He lost to Spieth by eight strokes in their only common meeting, at the Amer Ari.
4. Justin Thomas, Alabama
Golfstat ranking: 11
Strength of schedule: 19
Wins: Carpet Capital, Puerto Rico
Worst finish: 22nd, Olympia Fields
The skinny: His two victories probably give him the best chance of catching Spieth. The two freshmen are the only players in the top 5 with multiple victories.
5. Patrick Rodgers, Stanford
Golfstat ranking: 5
Strength of schedule: 31
Wins: Olympia Fields
Worst finish: 17th, San Diego Intercollegiate
The skinny: Spieth and Rodgers were teammates at the Walker Cup, winning a dramatic half-point after Spieth holed a lengthy putt. Now they’re among the favorites to be the national player-of-the-year. Rodgers’ finest finish – his win at prestigious Olympia Fields – came in his collegiate debut. His worst, at the San Diego Intercollegiate, came in his most recent start.
6. T.J. Vogel, Florida
Golfstat ranking: 4
Strength of schedule: 296
Wins: JU Invitational, Charleston Shootout
Worst finish: 15th, Olympia Fields
The skinny: Vogel’s strength of schedule, the worst among players in the top 10, hurts his chances. He has finished 1-2-1 in three starts this spring, though.
7. Julien Brun, TCU
Golfstat ranking: 7
Strength of schedule: 222
Wins: Turning Stone Intercollegiate, John Hayt Invitational
Worst finish: 13th, Amer Ari Invitational
The skinny: Like Vogel, he’s hurt by a poor strength of schedule. Brun might be the country’s most underrated player because of his lack of experience in the U.S. before coming to Texas. He’s No. 12 in the R&A’s World Amateur Golf Ranking.
8. Chris Williams, Washington
Golfstat ranking: 14
Strength of schedule: 44
Wins: Husky Invitational
Worst finish: 17th, The Prestige
The skinny: Williams, a member of the U.S. Walker Cup team, is hurt by the fact that his only victory came in an event shortened to 18 holes by weather. He’ll have to make a postseason run to contend for top player honors.
9. Talor Gooch, Oklahoma State
Golfstat ranking: 23
Strength of schedule: 22
Worst finish: 25th, Olympia Fields
The skinny: Gooch and Frittelli are the only top-10 players without a victory. He’s come on strong lately, though, with two top-5s in his past three starts (Isleworth, Puerto Rico).
11. Corbin Mills, Clemson
Golfstat ranking: 25
Strength of schedule: 49
Wins: Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate
Worst finish: 23rd, Bank of Tennessee
The skinny: The U.S. Amateur Public Links champion has played steady golf this season, finishing in the top 15 in all but two starts, but having just one top-10 hurts his candidacy.
• • •
Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters
Southern Highlands, Las Vegas
The skinny: This is one of the year’s major events. The field includes Texas (No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings), Alabama (3), USC (4), UCLA (5), California (10), UNLV (11), Stanford (12), Texas A&M (15), Duke (16), Oklahoma State (24) and Florida (25).