Breaking down the player-of-the-year race

Patrick Cantlay, Peter Uihlein and Bank Vongvanij

There’s a lot of college golf remaining, but it’s never too early to analyze what should be an exciting race for player-of-the-year honors. Three players – Oklahoma State’s Peter Uihlein, Florida’s Bank Vongvanij and UCLA’s Patrick Cantlay – seem to be the early favorites. Here’s a closer look at their seasons:

Peter Uihlein: He was the odds-on favorite after the fall, but the gap has closed after strong starts to the spring by Vongvanij and Cantlay. Uihlein won once in the fall – and finished no worse than second – while playing the nation’s strongest schedule. The big question mark is how voters will treat the only blemish on his resume, a 15th-place finish in the 31-player All-American Classic. The All-American counts in the rankings, but voters may overlook that event because it’s a limited-field, individual event held after the fall season is complete. Uihlein is 1-0 against both Vongvanij and Cantlay.

By the numbers:

Peter Uihlein, Oklahoma St. junior

Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking: 1 (as of Feb. 13)

Golfstat ranking: 3 (as of Feb. 15)

Golfweek strength of schedule rank: 1st

Events: 4

Wins: 1 (Olympia Fields)

Runners-up: 2 (Preview, Nicklaus)

Top 5s: 3

Top 10s: 3

Worst finish: 15th (All-American Classic)

Head-to-head vs. Vongvanij: 1-0 (+3 strokes)

Head-to-head vs. Cantlay: 1-0 (+8)

• • • 

Vongvanij: He’s finished first in three consecutive events, including Isleworth. His other two victories aren’t quite as impressive, though. The JU Invitational had a mediocre field (No. 25 Wake Forest was the only other top-25 team there). He also won the Gator Invitational, where the Gators have a significant home-course advantage. His strength of schedule (No. 122 in the nation) doesn’t help his candidacy. With that said, a win is still a win, and three consecutive victories is always an impressive feat. Vongvanij also deserves plenty of credit for finishing in the top 5 in every start this season. He’s No. 1 in Golfstat’s individual rankings.

By the numbers:

Bank Vongvanij, Florida senior

Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking: 2

Golfstat ranking: 1

Golfweek strength of schedule: 122

Events: 5

First-place finishes: 3 (Isleworth, Jacksonville, Gator*)

Runners-up: 1 (Olympia Fields)

Top 5s: 5

Top 10s: 5

Worst finish: 5th (Jerry Pate)

Head-to-head vs. Uihlein: 0-1 (-3)

Head-to-head vs. Cantlay: 0-0

• • • 

Cantlay: The freshman had a rough college debut, shooting 79 at Karsten Creek in the Preview’s first round, but has steadily improved since. He shot 1 over for the Preview’s final 36 holes to salvage a respectable 21st-place finish. He followed with a seventh at the U.S. Collegiate, then finished first or second in his next three starts, including an impressive win at CordeValle in the Gifford Collegiate.

By the numbers:

Patrick Cantlay, UCLA freshman

Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking: 3

Golfstat ranking: 4

Golfweek strength of schedule: 49

Events: 5

First-place finishes: 2 (Gifford, Amer Ari*)

Runners-up: 1 (Battle at the Beach)

Top 5s: 3

Top 10s: 4

Worst finish: 21st (Preview)

Head-to-head vs. Uihlein: 0-1 (-8)

Head-to-head vs. Vongvanij: 0-0

• *Lost playoff for individual title

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