Skip to main content

From Rahm to Rodgers, here are the decade's best men's college players

Getty Images

Back in 2014, Patrick Reed had no problem declaring himself a "top-5 player in the world." Five years later, he was more hesitant in putting himself among the five best college players of the past 10 years.

"It's hard to say," Reed said earlier this month in the Bahamas.

Reed only won three times in college but left Augusta State with two NCAA team titles and a blemish-free 6-0 match-play record at the NCAA Championship.

"I don't know if anyone else has done that," Reed said.

At the time, Reed was the only one, but this past spring Oklahoma State junior Viktor Hovland won two matches to end his NCAA match-play career at 6-0. Hovland, though, only has one NCAA team title to his credit.

When it comes to best college players of the past decade, there are numerous worthy candidates – Jon Rahm, Patrick Rodgers, Justin Thomas to name a few – and no clear-cut No. 1. Rahm played four seasons at Arizona State while Thomas spent just two years at Alabama.

"I only had two years," Thomas said. "I would think if I played them all, I'd have a lot better argument."

Jordan Spieth, meanwhile, played just three semesters at Texas, though Spieth contends he may have faced the toughest competition of the decade in 2011-12, the same season that Thomas edged him out for player of the year but Spieth countered by beating Thomas in the NCAA final and helping the Longhorns to the team title.

"I think I was playing in a period in the last decade that was about as strong as any period if you look at how many people were playing my freshman year that are now on the PGA Tour," Spieth said.

As far as wins go, Rahm, Rodgers and Stanford's Maverick McNealy each won 11 times. Rodgers, however, did so in three seasons.

"Had he stayed one more year, he might have gotten more," Rahm said. 

As far as longevity is concerned, though, Rahm was great for the longest period of the decade. He won in each of his four seasons. As a freshman, his 165 birdies made led the nation. As a senior, he never finished outside the top 10 in any tournament.

"I'm proud to say I'm the best right-hander to play at ASU," Rahm quipped, alluding to finishing five career wins shy of former Sun Devil and lefty Phil Mickelson. He then added: "It's not fair for me to grade myself, but I would say just because of the two Ben Hogans [Awards] and the consistency, yeah. I was going to say maybe top 5, but being confident in myself, I'll leave that out for critics and whoever's evaluating."

Speaking of evaluating, here's our first, second and third All-Decade teams:

Getty Images


Maverick McNealy, Stanford (2013-17)

A four-year player, McNealy is tied with Patrick Rodgers and Tiger Woods for the most career wins in school history (11). He is the school-record holder in scoring average (70.12). As a sophomore, he won six times, including Pac-12 and regional titles, en route to winning the Haskins and Nicklaus awards. He was a three-time first-team All-American.

Jon Rahm, Arizona State (2012-16)

A two-time Hogan Award winner and the Nicklaus Award recipient as a senior, Rahm won 11 times in four seasons with the Sun Devils, including two regional titles and the Pac-12 individual title. He ended his career with a 70.21 scoring average.

Patrick Rodgers, Stanford (2011-14)

Tied with McNealy and Woods with 11 career wins and ranks second behind McNealy in career scoring average (70.31). Rodgers’ junior season, his final at Stanford, included six victories and the Haskins and Nicklaus awards.

Justin Thomas, Alabama (2011-13)

Opened his college career with a win and finished his freshman year with four victories among nine top-10s while sweeping the major college awards – Haskins, Nicklaus and Mickelson. He won SEC and regional titles that season, too. He finished his career with six total victories and a 70.73 scoring average. As a sophomore, he was a second-team All-American but helped Alabama to its first NCAA title.

Matthew Wolff, Oklahoma State (2017-19)

Capped his two-year career with the 2019 NCAA individual title, the sixth win of his sophomore season and career. Among his 13 top-5s were five runner-up finishes. He won the Phil Mickelson Award as a freshman and the Haskins and Nicklaus awards as a sophomore. He finished with a 69.44 career scoring average and was a two-time first-team All-American.

Getty Images


Patrick Cantlay, UCLA (2010-12)

Won four times and totaled 14 top-10s while posting a 70.7 scoring average in two seasons with the Bruins. Won the Haskins, Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson awards as a freshman and the McCormack Medal as a sophomore.

Viktor Hovland, Oklahoma State (2016-19)

Won four times and posted 14 top-5s in three seasons with the Cowboys. He never finished worse than T-7 in a Big 12 Championship or NCAA regional and helped Oklahoma State to the 2018 NCAA title. He went 6-0 in NCAA match play during his career and finished with a 70.48 career scoring average.

Collin Morikawa, Cal (2015-19)

In four years with the Bears, he won five times but amassed an eye-popping 22 top-5s among 35 top-10s. He finished his career with a 69.78 scoring average and won the Pac-12 title as a senior.

Robby Shelton, Alabama (2013-16)

Won a program-record seven times and posted 17 top-5s in three seasons. He also holds the school record for career scoring average (70.42) and has three of the four best single-season stroke averages. He was a three-time first-team All-American and won the Phil Mickelson Award in 2014 while helping the Tide to the national title.

Braden Thornberry, Ole Miss (2015-18)

Set a school record with 11 victories in three-and-a-half seasons in Oxford, including the 2017 NCAA Championship. He also won the Haskins Award that year. He finished his career with a 70.77 scoring average.

Getty Images


Beau Hossler, Texas (2013-16)

Capped his three-year career at Texas with the 2016 Haskins Award. He was a two-time Big 12 Player of the Year and five of his six career wins came as a junior. He also had 23 top-10s and helped Texas reach the 2016 NCAA final despite suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in the semifinal match.

Patrick Reed, Augusta (2009-11)

After a short stint at Georgia, Reed transferred to Augusta and led the Jaguars to back-to-back NCAA titles in 2010 and ’11. He won three times in his career but more impressively went 6-0 in NCAA match play. His 71.33 career scoring average is the best in school history.

Jordan Spieth, Texas (2011-12)

Played just three semesters with the Longhorns, but won three times, was a first-team All-American and Big 12 Player of the Player as a freshman and helped Texas win the 2012 NCAA Championship.

Peter Uihlein, Oklahoma State (2008-11)

Won six times in three-and-a-half seasons in Stillwater, including an NCAA regional as a sophomore during a streak in which he also finished runner-up at Big 12s and the NCAA Championship. He tied for third at the 2011 NCAA Championship as a junior and won the Hogan Award later that summer thanks in large part to his 2010 U.S. Amateur victory.

Norman Xiong, Oregon (2016-18)

In just two seasons, Xiong set the school record with seven individual victories, including six during a sophomore season in which he won both the Haskins and Nicklaus awards. He also finished as the Ducks’ career leader in scoring average (69.91).