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The Syllabus: Just peachy

By Ryan Herrington

Regretfully I will not be in attendance when the Liz Murphey Fall Preview begins tomorrow at the University of Georgia GC. It's hard not to think that this will be the best tournament of the fall season, at least on paper. The level of competition is definitely tops thus far and will be until the spring semester rolls around.

What makes this event even more compelling, though, in my mind is that it potentially will set the tone for many of the country's top programs moving forward in 2012-13, providing an honest assessment of where they are early in the season and what they must do to get to where they want to be come next spring. Think about what the event means for teams like Alabama and UCLA, high-profile squads that have gotten off to slow starts. Certainly no one thinks they won't get things turned around at some point during the regular season, but if they should stumble again this week, does that affect their psyche?

Same holds for Auburn, Duke, USC and Virginia. And what about Georgia ... can the home course advantage help the Bulldogs rise up the leader board, perhaps a little higher than they might otherwise be able to stretch? What might that do for their confidence?

For those in the field there's the bonus of getting an early look at the UGa course is a plus for the participants, but competing against a field with 14 of the top 25 teams in the most recent Golf World/WGCA coaches' poll. But I'm not sure that's the biggest benefit for coaches with teams competing this week in Athens. It's getting an early read on your squads mental state that is the true prize on the line.
THE FAB FIVE
My look at the top five teams in the country right now

Cal logo.gif1. California (Last week: 1)
I don't usually make a big deal out of a conference naming a player its top golfer of the month, but given the depth of the Pac-12, Max Homa's recognition for his quick start to the 2012-13 season in September deserves some praise. It's the second time he's earned the honor in his career (February 2012 being the other).
Next event: Pac-12 Preview, Pumpkin Ridge GC, North Plains, Ore., Oct. 8-9

Texas logo.jpeg2. Texas (2)
I have not idea if Jordan Spieth will still be on the team this spring, but I've becoming more  impressed with the remainder of John Fields' roster thus far in 2012-13 should they lose the All-American to the pro ranks. Sure the Longhorns would be better with Spieth in the lineup, but they're not going to tumble like another Big 12 program did when it lost its most talented golfer mid-season a year ago.
Next event: Isleworth Collegiate Invitational, Isleworth CC, Windermere, Fla, Oct. 21-23

Washington 2012-13.jpeg3. Washington (3)
The Huskies will be short handed in the next tournament, as Chris Williams plays for the U.S. at this weekend's World Amateur Team Championship in Turkey. I'm curious how the rest of the squad adjusts without the Big Dog leading the way. Says here they'll handle it well.
Next event: Pac-12 Preview, Pumpkin Ridge GC, North Plains, Ore., Oct. 8-9

Florida logo.gif4. Florida (5)
Some will say it was a back-door second-place finish at Olympia Fields for the Gators, but taking in a different light it shows that the team doesn't necessarily have a lot of quit in them. Posting the best score of the final round, the group jumped from sixth to second and hinted that they're for real.
Next event: Jerry Pate National Collegiate, Old Overton GC, Vestavia Hills, Ala., Oct. 15-16
 
Alabama logo.gif5. Alabama (4)
Here's why the Crimson Tide faithful shouldn't be all that nervous about the way the team has started the season (third at Carpet Capital/T-9 at the Preview): the squad has hit a collective 54 percent of fairways in its first two starts and only 65.2 percent of greens in regulation. There's too much talent here not to see those numbers improve, and help the team rise up the leader board in the process.
Next event: Jerry Pate National Collegiate, Old Overton GC, Vestavia Hills, Ala., Oct. 15-16


Women
Arizona 2009-10.gif1. Arizona (5)
Given all the experience that the Wildcats lost from their roster to graduation last spring, I figured this might be a rough fall for Laura Ianello's squad as the replacements get their feet wet. So much for that logic, as U of A claimed its second title in as many starts earlier this week at the Windy City Classic. Knocking off conference foe Washington was an added bonus.
Next event: Stanford Intercollegiate, Stanford GC, Palo Alto, Calif., Oct. 19-21

Florida logo.gif2. Florida (1)
Even when the Gators aren't playing they're having success. Sophomore Camilla Hedberg of Spain tied for second individually at the Women's World Amateur Team Championship last week in Turkey, shooting par or better in all four rounds. Seats on the Hedberg bandwagon are starting to go fast, so reserve yours now. 
Next event: Lady Tar Heel Invitational, UNC Finley GC, Chapel Hill, N.C., Oct. 12-14

Alabama logo.gif3. Alabama (2)
The Crimson Tide have a history of playing well at UGa's course, having finished no worse than fourth at the Liz Murphey since 2007, including a first, a first and a second in the last three years. If you believe in omens, this isn't a bad one to have on your side.      
Next event: Liz Murphey NCAA Fall Preview, U. of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga., Oct. 5-7

UCLA logo 2008-09.gif4. UCLA (3)
A lineup back close to 100 percent means the Bruins will be playing more of a fair fight at the Preview this coming weekend. Still, making the cross country trip from L.A. with two players (Erynne Lee and Kyle Roig) still trying to adjust back from competing in Turkey last week, doesn't mean things will automatically get easier for the folks from Westwood.   
Next event: Liz Murphey NCAA Fall Preview, U. of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga., Oct. 5-7

Duke logo.gif5. Duke (4)
Might not be any team I'm more anxious to see than the Blue Devils compete at the Preview. They vaulted to No. 1 in the Golf World/WGCA coaches' poll this week, but have only played once. I'd like to see a little larger sample size before I put them atop my leader board here..
Next event: Liz Murphey NCAA Fall Preview, U. of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga., Oct. 5-7



STAT OF THE WEEK
5 years, 19 days
Time since the men's teams at Augusta State, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia State all played in the same college tournament prior to competing at this weekend's Brickyard Collegiate Championship. While all Peach State programs, the four schools haven't competed against each other in one event since the 2007 Carpet Capital Classic, where Georgia Tech finished third, Georgia finished sixth, Augusta State finished T-14 and Georgia State finished 16th.


TWEET OF THE WEEK
Tweet of the week part 1 10-4-12.jpgTweet of the week part 2 10-4-2012.jpg—Exchange between myself and UCLA's Pontus Widegren during last weekend's Ryder Cup. Widegren was a member of the European Palmer Cup team that won seven of eight singles matches in the final session this summer at Royal County Down to comeback and beat the American team, 13.5-10.5.



RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
I loved seeing all the patriotic garb at Medinah CC when I was covering the Ryder Cup last week. But where did it all come from? What store sells a blazer made out of American flags?


WHAT TO WATCH FOR

It's no secret that I've been supportive of the men incorporating match play to determine the NCAA team champion. Four straight years of dramatic action at nationals has helped me argue my case, but what went on at Medinah this past weekend is more evidence about the compelling nature of this format to help crown a team champion.

In the aftermath of the Europeans stunning Sunday comeback/Americans ugly Sunday swoon at the Ryder Cup, I didn't hear anybody say "You know, this format didn't really determine who had the better team." After all, the U.S. side had more top ranked players on its roster than Europe, so naturally they were the better team. And since they didn't win, well the format is obviously flawed.

Nope, didn't hear any of this sort of talk here in the last few days.

Nor can I ever imagine anybody having the gall to approach the PGA of America and say, "We need to make this a stroke-play competition where the top eight scores for each side count each day and we'll aggregate them to figure out a winner."

Why, then, should the reverse of this argument be so willingly thrown around each spring after the NCAA champion isn't simply the No. 1 team in the country entering the championship?

Is match play flawed? Absolutely. Tiger Woods' incredible play during Friday afternoon's four-ball matches didn't matter a lick because his opponent, Nicolas Colsaerts, was playing even more out of his mind. Is that fair to Woods and his team. Probably not.

In the end, however, match play creates a head-to-head struggle that's the essence of team sports. And if college golf is trying to sell itself as as team sport, it needs this one-on-one kind of competition to stir things up. It's why I think the women's game should have an honest discussion about potentially incorporating match play into its championship in the near future.

Now if they could only play a little more of it during the regular season so that teams are used to it come nationals.  


TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS
MEN

Brickyard Collegiate Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
The Brickyard, Macon, Ga.
Oct. 5-7
Host: Mercer
Defending champion: Georgia Tech (-16/848) by 17 strokes over Florida State; Florida State's Brooks Koepka (-11/205) by four strokes over Georgia Tech's Anders Albertson and Georgia Tech's Seth Reeves
Field: Air Force, Augusta State, Chattanooga, College of Charleston, Colorado State, Georgia, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Mercer, North Florida, Oklahoma, Princeton, USF, Virginia Tech
Skinny: Tournament has raised more than $50,000 for Macon Golf for Kids, a local organization that introduces golf to under-served children in the Macon area.

David Toms Intercollegiate
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
University Club GC, Baton Rouge, La.
Oct. 6-7
Host: LSU
Defending champion: Oklahoma (-2/862) by 10 strokes over Lamar; Louisiana Lafayette's Andrew Noto (-8/208) by four strokes over Lamar's Kevin Hesbois
Field: Boston College, Gonzaga, Houston, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, San Francisco, Toledo, UNC Wilmington, UT Arlington, Xavier
Skinny: The host Tigers come in on a roll, having won the Graeme McDowell Shoal Creek Invitational last weekend.

Fighting Irish Gridiron Classic
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Warren GC, South Bend, Ind.
Oct. 7-9
Host: Notre Dame
Defending champion: Houston and St. Mary's (Calif.) (+30/870) co-champions; UT-Arlington (E/210) by one stroke over Houston's James Ross
Field: Boston College, Gonzaga, Houston, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, San Francisco, Toledo, UNC Wilmington, UT Arlington, Xavier
Skinny: The inaugural event in 2007 continues to be the year that all the seven-year-old tournaments records scores came from, with Michigan State taking the team title with a seven-over 847. The next best team score is 2010 champ Iowa with a +13/853.

The Firestone Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Firestone CC (North course), Akron, Ohio
Oct. 8-9
Host: Akron
Defending champion: Indiana and St. Mary's (Calif.) (-10/854) co-champions; St. Mary's Mac McClung (-11/205) by four strokes over Indiana's Chase Wright
Field: Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green State, Davidson, Eastern Michigan, Illinois State, Iowa State, Kansas State, Louisville, Maryland, Miami (Ohio), Nebraska, Ohio, Samford, St. Mary's (Calif.), USC-Aiken, Wisconsin
Skinny: Scott Hardy, coach at St. Mary's, had the tough decision of choosing between Notre Dame's event and this one after sharing the title in each a year ago (when they didn't fall on the same weekend). Hardy told me ND's event is run extremely well, but that having Mac McClung get a chance to try to defend his individual title, as well as the fact the Gaels have played at Firestone the last three years, caused him to come to Akron.

Jack Nicklaus Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Muirfield Village GC, Dublin, Ohio
Oct. 8-9
Host: Ohio State
Defending champion: Texas (-2/862) by 16 strokes over Ohio State; Illinois' Thomas Pieters (-7/209) by two strokes over Texas' Jordan Spieth and Purdue's Tyler Duncan
Field: Arkansas, BYU, Kent State, Kentucky, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Purdue, San Diego, UCF, UNLV, Vandebilt
Skinny: With Illinois not playing for the first time since the events inception in 2010, the medalist is guaranteed to be someone other than a member of the Fighting Illini roster.

WOMEN
Liz Murphey Fall Preview
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
U. of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga.
Oct. 5-7
Host: Georgia
Defending champion (2012 Liz Murphey): Alabama (-10/854) by 12 strokes over Georgia; Alabama's Jennifer Kirby (-7/209) by one stroke over Purdue's Laura Gonzalez-Escallon
Field: Alabama, Auburn, California, Denver, Duke, Georgia, LSU, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Purdue, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tulane, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia
Skinny: Combining the annual Liz Murphey event, held the last 40 years in the spring, with the traditional preview tournament on the course that will host the NCAA Championship come spring.

Lady Pirate Intercollegiate
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Greenville GC, Greenville, N.C.
Oct. 8-9
Host: East Carolina
Defending champion: Maryland (+15/879) by three strokes over Georgia State; Old Dominion's Samantha Morrell (-4/212) by one stroke over East Carolina's Amy Otteson, Maryland's Juliet Vongphaumy and Furman's Laura Wearn
Field: Augusta State, Boston College, Brown, Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, Elon, Georgia State, High Point, Longwood, Marshall, Maryland, Old Dominion, Radford, Samford, Southern Mississippi, UNC Greensboro, UNC Wilmington, Western Carolina, William & Mary, Yale
Skinny: You don't have to go real low to claim medalist honors in this 12-year-old tournament. The medalist has shot more than one sub-70 rounds only once (Maryland's Katie Stepanek, 2005, 69-67-75).

Price's Give 'Em Five Intercollegiate
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
New Mexico State GC, Las Cruces, N.M.
Oct. 8-10
Host: New Mexico State
Defending champion: Baylor (-4/860) by one stroke over Idaho; Baylor's Jaclyn Jansen and Idaho's Kayla Mortellaro (-5/211) co-medalist
Field: Boise State, BYU, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico State, North Texas, UTEP, Utah Valley, Washington State
Skinny: The current iteration of the tournament is celebrating its 13th year this fall.

Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Sahalee CC, Sammamish, Wash.
Oct. 8-10
Host: Washington
Defending champion: Colorado (+32/896) by two strokes over Oregon; Nebraska's Madeleine Sheils (-2/214) by one stroke over Oregon's Cassy Isagawa and Washington's Jennifer Yang
Field: Fresno State, Gonzaga, Hawaii, Long Beach State, Oregon, Oregon State, Portland State, San Diego State, San Francisco, San Jose State, Seattle, Stanford, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UNLV, Washington
Skinny: Tournament celebrated its 30th anniversary a year ago. Ihlanfeldt coached the Huskies from 1974-81.

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July 28, 2014

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