The NCAA Championship begins in exactly one week and the race for the Haskins Award presented by Stifel is tighter than ever.
LSU sophomore Sam Burns entered the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional trailing Oregon senior Wyndham Clark on the Haskins Award Watch List. But that was before Burns won a regional title on his home course, beating Clark by a shot.
Now, the two players are neck and neck. And don’t rule out Stanford senior Maverick McNealy, the 2015 Haskins winner; Wake Forest junior Will Zalatoris; and Ole Miss sophomore Braden Thornberry. Those three players could win with an NCAA title and poor showings by Burns and Clark at Rich Harvest Farms.
Voting for the 2017 Haskins Award is now open. Players, coaches and media members can vote by clicking here.
The Haskins Award is given annually to the best college player, as voted by players, coaches and media. Haskins Award winners over the years include such notable future professionals as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Hunter Mahan.
Texas’ Beau Hossler won the 2016 Haskins Award, beating out Arizona State’s Jon Rahm and Stanford’s Maverick McNealy, the 2015 Haskins winner.
Here are my current top candidates for the 2017 Haskins Award:
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1. Sam Burns
- Year: Sophomore
- School: LSU
- Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 2
- Results: Won, NCAA Baton Rouge Regional; Won, Louisiana Classics; Won, Western Refining College All-America Classic; T-1, David Toms Intercollegiate; second, The Prestige at PGA West; second, Ka’anapali Collegiate Classic; T-4, Valspar Collegiate; T-6, Carpet Capital Collegiate; T-6, Aggie Invitational; eighth, Maui Jim Intercollegiate; T-8, Tiger Classic; T-9, Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate; T-9, SEC Championship; T-9, General Hackler Championship; 0-1 in SEC Championship match play
- Scoring average: 69.77
- The buzz: Despite a final-round 75, Burns hung on to win the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional on his home course. More importantly, he notched a head-to-head win over Clark. Burns hasn’t finished worse than T-9 all year and has won four times, which gives him the slight edge over Clark, even though Clark is ranked No. 1 by Golfweek. Burns has played the 73rd toughest schedule in the country.
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2. Wyndham Clark
- Year: Senior
- School: Oregon
- Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 1
- Results: Won, Pac-12 Championship; Won, Arizona Intercollegiate; T-1, Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate; second, NCAA Baton Rouge Regional; second, Oregon Duck Invitational; second, Nike Golf Collegiate Invitational; T-2, Bandon Dunes Championship; T-3, Paintbrush Intercollegiate; T-5, Western Intercollegiate; T-6, East Lake Cup (stroke play); T-10, Amer Ari Invitational; T-13, The Goodwin; 2-0 in East Lake Cup match play
- Scoring average: 69.59
- The buzz: What a season it has been for the transfer from Oklahoma State. He has three victories, including the Pac-12 Championship, and just recently finishes a shot out of winning a regional. He hasn’t finished worse than T-13 all season and he leads the nation in scoring average. However, his strength of schedule (No. 122) stands out when comparing him to Burns. Still, Clark and Burns are very close to each other in terms of who has the better Haskins resume.
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3. Maverick McNealy
- Year: Senior
- School: Stanford
- Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 3
- Results: Won, Nike Golf Collegiate Invitational; third, NCAA Stanford Regional; third, Gifford Collegiate (stroke play); fourth, Western Intercollegiate; fourth, Amer Ari Invitational; T-4, Pac-12 Championship; seventh, The Goodwin; 16th, Southern Highlands Collegiate; T-18, The Prestige at PGA West; T-29, Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate
- Scoring average: 69.72
- The buzz: McNealy nearly won the NCAA Stanford Regional – and broke the school career wins record – but he closed with back-to-back double bogeys to finish third. Still, McNealy has had a solid season. His win at the Nike is a notable achievement, and he has five other top-4 finishes while playing the 23rd toughest schedule in the country. He’ll need to win NCAAs to have a chance at his second Haskins, though.
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4. Will Zalatoris
- Year: Junior
- School: Wake Forest
- Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 4
- Results: Won, General Hackler Championship; T-2, Valspar Collegiate; T-2, 3M Augusta Invitational; T-2, Rod Myers Invitational; T-5, NCAA Austin Regional; T-5, ACC Championship; seventh, Nike Golf Collegiate; T-7, Querencia Cabo Collegiate; T-8, Irish Creek Intercollegiate; T-12, SunTrust Gator Invitational; T-24, Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate
- Scoring average: 70.0
- The buzz: Zalatoris’ team might not have made it through to the NCAA Championship, but Zalatoris will play as an individual thanks to his T-5 showing at regionals. He’s won just once, but has three runner-up finishes and just two finishes outside the top 8. His schedule ranks 38th in the nation. He’ll need to win NCAAs to have a shot at the Haskins.
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5. Braden Thornberry
- Year: Sophomore
- School: Ole Miss
- Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 5
- Results: Won, Ryman Hospitality Intercollegiate; Won, Princevillle Warrior Makai Invitational; Won, AutoTrader.com Collegiate Classic; Won, FAMC Intercollegiate at the Grove; second, The Hootie at Bulls Bay; fourth, NCAA Austin Regional; T-4, The Invitational at the Ocean Course; third, Old Waverly Intercollegiate; T-3, SEC Championship; T-10, Marquette Intercollegiate; T-16, Lamkin Grips San Diego Classic; T-28, Querencia Cabo Collegiate; T-63, Puerto Rico Classic
- Scoring average: 69.61
- The buzz: His performances in Puerto Rico and Mexico hurt him, but Thornberry does have four victories. A win at the NCAA Championship would give him five individual titles, more than any other player in Division I. Thornberry also helped his team get to Rich Harvest Farms with a big third-place showing at regionals. He ranks second in the nation in scoring average, though he’s played the weakest schedule of the five Haskins contenders (No. 251).