__THE FAB FIVE
My look at the top five teams in the country right now__
- Stanford__—Looking for a reason for the Cardinal’s success in 2006-07? Consider that the team has hit 78.1 percent of its fairways. Also leads the country in par-4 scoring (4.05). Next event: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 25-27
__2. Alabama __—Stepped up nicely after Stanford and Florida won their opening tournaments of the spring with an impressive victory at this week’s John Hayt Collegiate. Next event: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 25-27
__3. Florida __—The Gators’ record versus top-25 schools in 2006-07 is an impressive 34-6. Having faced 20 of the other schools in the top 25, Florida has beat all but two (Alabama, Southern California) at least once. Next event: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 25-27
__4. Oklahoma State __—Defending NCAA champions still might have the deepest team in the men’s game. Next event: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 25-27
__5. Georgia __—When the Bulldogs finally tee it up this weekend in Puerto Rico, it will have been 117 days since they last played a competitive round. Next event: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 25-27
- Georgia __—The Bulldogs are in the top five in par-3 (3.16), par-4 (4.19) and par-5 (4.92) scoring. Next event: Lady Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar Resort, Puerto Rico, Feb. 23-25
__2. Duke __—Only team with two players (Amanda Blumenherst and Jennie Lee) listed in the top five in the Golfstat Cup ranking. Next event: Arizona Wildcat Invitational, The Raven GC, Tucson, Feb. 26-27
- Arizona State __—The Sun Devils lead the country in birdies with 181 thus far in the 2006-07 season. Next event: Arizona Wildcat Invitational, The Raven GC, Tucson, Feb. 26-27
4. Vanderbilt—After waiting for spring opening, Lady Commodores will play three events in 21 days beginning next Monday. Next event: Arizona Wildcat Invitational, The Raven GC, Tucson, Feb. 26-27
__5. Auburn __—Redshirt freshman Marisa Milligan and sophomore Mariana Macias will play for the team rather than as individuals for the first time in their college careers in Puerto Rico. Next event: Lady Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar Resort, Puerto Rico, Feb. 23-25
__GOLF WORLD COLLEGE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Aaron Weston__, Colorado State
Misun Cho__, Pepperdine
__STAT OF THE WEEK
Number of schools that have a winning record versus the Stanford men in the 2006-07 seasons. Can you guess who they are? (Answer below).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
• If ESPN covered college golf the way it does college football, the talking heads would be calling next week’s Puerto Rico Classic the tournament of the century, a colossal showdown of the best teams in the game that will separate. All hyperbole aside, this is the biggest event we have seen so far in the spring if not the entire year, with each of the top five schools in the latest Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll competing and six of the top-10 schools competing at Rio Mar Resort. It will be the first time Stanford and Florida will have played in the same event, and the only time the Cardinal, Gators and Oklahoma State, Alabama and Georgia will all be in the same field until, perhaps, the NCAA Championship.
So just who will “separate” themselves? Considering all but Georgia have played well in their spring openers (the Bulldogs having yet to play), there is no obvious front runner. Oklahoma State has the best one-two punch of all the teams (Pablo Martin and Jonathan Moore), but the Cardinal seems be playing best 1 to 5. The Gators are getting more support than anticipated for Billy Horschel, and Alabama played impressively under difficult weather conditions earlier this week at the John Hayt. If I have to make a prediction, I’m going to go with Oklahoma State simply because I think their All-Americans are playing too solid right now, but don’t be surprised if any of those top five teams makes a run.
• “Now that’s more like it.”
OK, so that wasn’t Texas A&M women’s coach Jeanne Sutherland’s direct quote after the Aggies’ 13-shot victory over Michigan State at the Central District Invitational earlier this week. Still, it’s got to be what she and the rest of the A&M faithful have to be thinking after a fall season in which the defending Big 12 Conference champions played in four events and did no better than a T-5 in any of them. A T-6 at the Northrup Grumman Regional Challenge earlier this month didn’t seem to indicate the team, ranked 24th in the latest Golf World coaches' poll, did much during the winter break to turn things around, but with four players in the top-20 at River Wilderness CC in Parrish, Fla.,—including individual winner Ashley Knoll—Sutherland could finally smile again.
“It was a really great tournament for the girls,” coach actually did say afterward. “From a coaching standpoint, I thought they did a good job of focusing on every shot. They had fun and they were into their shots. We’ve had two very solid tournaments this spring and that’s a positive.”
There’s too much talent in College Station not to have better results than two top-fives in six starts. With the Aggies next playing at home in the "Mo"Morial, look for some momentum to build and the squad to once again be mentioned as a potential dark horse for the national championship.
__TOURNAMENTS TO WATCH
Puerto Rico Invitational
Westin Rio Mar GC (River Course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico (Par 72, 6,945 yards)
Field: Alabama, Clemson, Duke, East Tennessee State, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Kent State, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, N.C. State, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Stanford, Texas, Virginia Tech
Defending champion: Georgia (21-under 843); Chris Kirk, Georgia (11-under 205)
Skinny: See above.
Arizona Wildcat Invitational__
(for live scoring, link here to Golfstat)
Arizona National GC, Tucson (Par 71, 6,238 yards)
Field: Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, California, Duke, New Mexico, Pepperdine, Stanford, Tennessee, UCLA, UNLV, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Washington.
Defending champion: Arizona State (12-under 840); Jacqui Concolino, Vanderbilt (nine-under 204)
Skinny: The field is stacked with top squads, including eight of the top 10 teams in the most recent Golf World coaches’ poll, and 12 top 25 squads out of 15 competing. The host Wildcats have won the tournament seven times since 1983, with their most recent victory being in 2001.
Stat of the week answer
Duke, who Stanford finished second to at the Fighting Illini Invitational in September, and Wisconsin, who finished third to Stanford’s fifth at the Big Ten/Pac-10 Challenge in October.