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The Syllabus: First time's the charm

THE FAB FIVE
My look at the top five teams in the country right now

Men
Texas logo.jpeg1. Texas (Last week: 1)
It's hard to not believe the hype surrounding the Longhorns, particularly after their impressive victory at last week's Amer Ari Invite, giving them four victories in five overall starts. Yet it seems hard not to believe that the top-ranked school in the Golf World/Nike Golf men's coaches' poll. hasn't separated itself from the rest of the programs in top 25. It's a long way until nationals, but it's hard not to think Texas will be the favorite.  
Next event: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar GC (River course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 19-21

UCLA logo 2008-09.gif2. UCLA (4)
A T-49 finish at the Amer Ari from Patrick Cantlay becomes the Bruins' headline for the uninitiated, seeing that it the sophomore's worst ever finish in college. Certainly it contributed to UCLA's fifth-place showing. The real take away, however, was the top-10 showings from Pontus Widegren and Anton Arboleda. This squad has depth, which will prove in handy before the spring is over.
Next event: San Diego Intercollegiate Classic, San Diego CC, Chula Vista, Calif., Feb. 13-14

USC logo.gif3. USC (NR)
The Trojans have the toughest schedule of any men's team in the Golf World/Nike Golf top 25. Undaunted, their second-place showing at the Amer Ari Invite suggests the squad is ready for the challenge. Their head-to-head record might not always be pretty this spring, but the experience they're gaining could be huge come the post-season.
Next event: San Diego Intercollegiate Classic, San Diego CC, Chula Vista, Calif., Feb. 13-14

Arkansas.gif4. Arkansas (3)
Razorback fans hoping to see the momentum carry over from the four-win fall campaign have lots to pay attention to this weekend in Gainesville. If Brad McMakin's group can upset Florida on its home course, Arkansas doubters are going to have a lot tougher time making their case. 
Next event: Sun Trust Gator Invitational, Mark Bostick GC, Gainesville, Fla., Feb. 11-12

Oregon logo.gif5. Oregon (2)
After an impressive fall, the Ducks fell flat in their spring opener, finishing 12th at the Amer Ari in Hawaii. Seniors Eugene Wong (T-23 thanks to a triple bogey on the last hole) and Daniel Miernicki (T-72) had their worst performances of the 2011-12 season. I'll give them a slight pass considering we're just creeping out of the winter break, but considering how competitive the Pac-12 is this year, they're going to need to return to form and quickly.
Next event: Del Walker Match Play, Virginia CC, Long Beach, Calif., Feb. 27-28



Women

UCLA logo 2008-09.gif1. UCLA (1)
If you thought the loss of senior Stephanie Kono to the pro ranks wouldn't affect the Bruins, you can point to their second-place finish at the Arizona Wildcat and say that five of the six UCLA players in the field had top-10 showings. Conversely, if you thought Kono's loss would be a factor, you can point to the fact that UCLA lost to Arizona by 12 strokes. Either way, UCLA remains the team to beat this spring. 
Next event: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 13-15

Alabama logo.gif2. Alabama (2)
It was about this time last year that Stephanie Meadow elevated her game and became one of the top players in college golf. No reason to think she's any less up to the task this spring, one of many reasons why Crimson Tide golf fans have smiles on their faces these days. 
Next event: Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, English Turn GC, New Orleans, Feb. 26-28

Auburn logo.gif3. Auburn (3)
Are the Tigers for real or was the fall season a mirage? Not sure if we'll get a true answer this weekend when they kick off the spring outside of Orlando—the field has only three teams in the Golf World/NGCA top 25—but we'll certainly see if the players rested on their laurels during the winter break. My guess is they didn't.  
Next event: UCF Invitational, Red Tail GC, Sorrento, Fla., Feb. 12-14

LSU logo.gif4. LSU (4)
My favorite Jeykll and Hyde women's team is making the trip to Puerto Rico. I think we see the real Tigers, with a motivated Austin Ernst, play well enough in the spring opener to make their SEC rivals take notice.
Next event: Lady Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC, Rio Mar, Puerto Rico, Feb. 12-14

Oklahoma State logo.jpg5. Oklahoma State (5)
It's no more than a gut feeling, but I think Kelsey Vines is going to need to step up and be a consistent No. 1 for the Cowgirls this spring for them to continue the success they had in the fall. The good news for OSU fans is she's shown no signs she's not up to the task, with three top-10s in the fall and no finish worse than T-16.       
Next event: Lady Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC, Rio Mar, Puerto Rico, Feb. 12-14



STAT OF THE WEEK, Part I

0
Number of college tournaments (out of 16 overall starts) in which UCLA's Patrick Cantlay has played and failed to shoot at least one round of par or better.


STAT OF THE WEEK, Part II
2
Number of college tournaments in which Cantlay has posted a second round score worse than his first and a third round score worse than his second. At the Amer Ari Invitational, Cantlay went 70-72-75, finishing T-48. Last fall Cantlay went 69-71-72 at the U.S. Collegiate en route to a T-3 finish.


TWEET OF THE WEEK
Tweet of the Week 2:9:2012.jpgTalk about your impressive starts to the spring. The Arizona women set a 54-hole school record with their 13-under 851 performance at the GC of Vistoso in Tucson--three strokes better than their previous mark of 10-under 854 set during the 1998-99 season--to beat UCLA by 12 strokes and take the team title at the Arizona Wildcat Invitational. Even more impressive was the play of freshman Manon Gidali. In her first tournament start for the Wildcats, the native of France shot a 12-under 204 to win the individual title by seven strokes. She also claimed the U of A individual 54-hole school record, breaking the mark previously set by Lorena Ochoa when she shot a 10-under 206 at Trysting Tree GC in Corvallis, Ore., in 2001.

"I'm really happy with how I played," Gidali said afterward. "After my first round, I relaxed. I really didn't think I could shoot better than five under but I did in the second round. This is a great win for our team and this will generate some great momentum."

Her second-round 66 and final-round 67 are tied for the second and third lowest 18-hole rounds in school history. 


RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
Since when did car tires start costing so much?


WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Bryden Macpherson.jpeg* Upon hearing that Bryden Macpherson had officially withdrawn from Georgia yesterday, I wrote on Twitter that suddenly the Bulldogs roster looked a bit thin. That's what happens when you lose the reigning British Amateur champion just days before starting the spring season. Macpherson, a 21-year-old junior from Australia (right), said that he wanted to concentrate on preparing for his appearance at the Masters in April and his eventual move to the pro ranks not long after.

To Macpherson's credit, he Tweeted back to me "They have a lot of physical ability on that team! Don't be surprised if those guys step it up now! #GODAWGS"

I give credit to Macpherson for quickly coming to the defense of his former team. However, I'm not sure if I'm buying what he's selling. Of the nine remaining players on the UGa lineup, only one player has played more than nine multiround stroke-play tournaments for Georgia (T.J. Mitchell, 21). In fact the average number of tournaments played as Bulldogs for the nine players on the roster is 5.33 if you include Mitchell. Take him out and the remaining eight have played and average of 3.375 tournaments wearing the black and white.

My numbers are slightly skewed because I am not including the 14 starts transfer Joey Garber made at Michigan last season before arriving in Athens during the winter break. But that might prove my point. The fact that Garber is as experienced as almost any player on the roster suggests this could be a long spring for Chris Haack's team. Now it's hard to blame Haack for this given he's trying to replace three All-Americans (Russell Henley, Harris English, Hudson Swafford) from the 2010-11 team that lost in the NCAA finals to Augusta State. But at the same time, having to replace Macpherson on top of that is hardly going to be an easy endeavor.

* The U.S. Palmer Cup coach is likely to be named in the next week. Can't divulge the name, but I don't think it's going to shock anybody.


TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS
MEN
Big Ten Match Play Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Heron Bay GC, Coral Springs, Fla.
Feb. 10-12
Defending champion: Northwestern df Indiana, 4-2
Field: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Skinny: Great way for warm weather schools to knock off the winter rust and get in some early action before the heart of the spring season.

SunTrust Gator Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Mark Bostick GC at U. of Florida, Gainesville, Fla.
Feb. 11-12
Host: Florida
Defending champion: Florida (four-over 844) by nine strokes over Auburn; Florida's Andres Echavarria (E/210) in playoff over Florida State's Drew Kittleson, Florida's Bank Vongvanij and Florida's Philip Choi
Field: Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Southern, Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Liberty, Memphis, Mississippi State, North Florida, South Alabama, UAB, UCF
Skinny: The Gators have been rotten hosts in this 34-year-old event, winning it 25 times including the last eight years. (A ninth straight win would tying their own record for most consecutive years winning the tourney, set from 1989-97). They're no lock this weekend with Auburn and Arkansas in the field, but they're still the heavy favorite.

UTSA/Oak Hills Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Oak Hills CC, San Antonio
Feb. 13-14
Host: UT-San Antonio
Defending champion: Texas Tech (-13/837) by 12 strokes over Oklahoma; Texas Tech's Nils Floren (-5/208) by one stroke over Oklahoma's Ben Klaus
Field: Baylor, Houston, Iowa State, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette, North Texas, Oklahoma, Rice, S.E. Louisiana, Texas State, Texas Tech, Tulsa, UT-San Antonio, Wichita State
Skinny: Top flight venue that gets squeezed by a crowded schedule.

San Diego Intercollegiate
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
San Diego CC, Chula Vista, Calif.
Feb. 13-14
Host: San Diego State
Defending champion: SMU and UT-Arlington (+13/1,093) with SMU winning a tiebreaker for the team title; UT-Arlington's Paul McConnell (-2/214) by one stroke over SMU's Kelly Kraft
Skinny: Event moved up from its March date in 2011.

John Burns Intercollegiate
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Turtle Bay Resort, Wahiawa, Hawaii
Feb. 14-16
Host: Hawaii
Defending champion: California (-30/834) by six strokes over Texas A&M; Virginia's Ben Kohles (-10/206) in a playoff over Texas A&M's John Russell and California's Max Homa
Field:
Arizona, BYU, BYU-Hawaii, California, Colorado State, Denver, Duke, Fresno State, Hawaii, Hawaii-Hilo, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, SMU, Texas A&M, UNLV, Utah, UTEP Skinny: It's funny to see the schools that year in and year out play in either the Amer Ari/Big Island event or the John Burns. The loyalties are very strong.


WOMEN
Lady Puerto Rico Classic
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Rio Mar GC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
Feb. 12-14
Host: Purdue
Defending champion: Alabama (+11/875) by five strokes over Iowa State; Alabama's Stephanie Meadow (-4/212) by one stroke over Florida State's Maria Salinas
Field: Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa State, Kent State, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska, N.C. State, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Purdue, SMU, TCU, Texas Tech
Skinny: Everyone starts on equal footing as this is the first event of the spring for all 15 schools in the field.

UCF Challenge
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Red Tail GC, Sorrento, Fla.
Feb. 12-14
Host: UCF
Defending champion: Coastal Carolina (+3/867) by one stroke over Tulane; Kentucky's Ashleigh Albrecht and Minnesota's Teresa Puga (-8/208) co-champions
Field: Auburn, Augusta State, Baylor, Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, Kansas, Kennesaw State, Kentucky, Memphis, Miami (Fla.), Minnesota, Mississippi State, South Carolina, South Florida, Texas, Tulane, UCF, UT-San Antonio
Skinny: On paper, this one appears to be a two-school race between Auburn and Texas. Which one maintains last fall's momentum?

Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif.
Feb. 13-15
Host: Ohio State
Defending champion: USC (+32/884) by two strokes over Arizona State; Arizona State's Carlota Ciganda (+2/215) by two strokes over Wake Forest's Natalie Sheary
Field: Arizona State, Colorado, Denver, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pepperdine, UC Davis, UCLA, USC, Wake Forest
Skinny: Annually one of the most difficult courses that hosts a women's college event.




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