Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

PGA National (Champion Course)

The Loop

This Week's Syllabus: Feb. 10-16

February 10, 2011


My look at the top five teams in the country right now



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1. Oklahoma State (Last week: 1)

Seems like a bit of a statistical oddity: the Cowboys haven't had a tournament yet during the 2010-11 season where at least one player didn't finish fifth or better. And yet no Cowboy golfer ranks  in the top 15 in par-3, par-4 or par-5 scoring, nor does the team ranking in the top 10 in any of the three.

Next event: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 20-22


2. Florida (3)

I am not a betting man, but if somebody was to propose to me that I had to pick the winner of one college tournament all season and I had to be right, the tournament I would pick is the Gator Invite and the team I would pick is the host Gators. OK guys, the pressure is on.

Next event: Gator Invitational, Mark Bostick GC, Gainesville, Fla., Feb. 12-13


3. UCLA (2)

The Bruins' 11-man roster has just two juniors or one senior. The experience these guys gain this spring is going to be huge. Have the talent to win it all this year, but if they don't, watch out for 2012 when Riviera hosts the NCAA Championship.

Next event: Battle at the Beach, Pelican Hill Golf Resort, Newport Beach, Calif., Feb. 13-15


4. Alabama (4)

The Roll Tide contingent at Jones Cup played quite respectably, with Bud Cauley missing playoff by one stroke and Hunter Hamrick carding a top-10. Got to believe the boys in Tuscaloosa are anxious to get to Puerto Rico.

Spring opener: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 20-22


5. San Diego State (NR)

The Aztecs remind me a lot of Augusta State from a year ago. They have contended in every tournament they've played, have solid players that might be unheard of but who can go low and they're learning how to win as a team.

Next event: Battle at the Beach, Pelican Hill Golf Resort, Newport Beach, Calif., Feb. 13-15



1. Alabama (Last week: 1)

With the trip to Puerto Rico, the Crimson Tide is heading back to place where they began their most recent roll. Got to think the good vibes will help the team get off to another nice spring start.

Spring opener: Lady Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC (River Course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 13-15


2. UCLA (2)

The Bruins talent makes them a great pick to be a contender each and every week. Meanwhile, their schedule isn't as scary as other opponents; they'll face only 10 teams currently in the top-10 of the Golf World/NGCA coaches' poll this spring (compared to Auburn facing 21) and only 20 top-25 schools (compared to North Carolina, Duke and Virginia playing 40).

Spring opener: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 14-16


3. USC (3)

Andrea Gaston is trying to end a bit of a jinx of late with active coaches that have gone into the NGCA Hall of Fame. None of the last four inducted have won their first tournament after the ceremony. Only two (Karen Bahnsen and John Crooks) finished second.

Spring opener: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 14-16


4. LSU (4)

I feels like no top team has more questions to answer than the Tigers. Can Megan McChrystal maintain her torrid play? With Tessa Teachman and Mary Michael Maggio continue to have McChrystal's back? Can Austin Ernst make a run at national freshman of the year? Mind you all are good questions to have to be asking.*

Spring opener:* Central District Invitational, River Wilderness GC, Parrish, Fla., Feb. 21-22


5. Purdue (5)

The Boilermakers know it's not how you play in February but in May, so don't expect them to hit the proverbial panic button if they struggle early in the spring.

Spring opener: Lady Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC (River Course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 13-15



College golfers who rank in the top 50 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Last week the USGA announced that it would partner with the R&A in the administration of the ranking and starting this year would also allow anyone in the top 50 at the close of entries into any USGA men's amateur championship to be exempt into the event without having to go through qualifying.


__Since the final round of the Gifford Collegiate Championship (Nov. 10), the last men's marquee D-I college tournament of the fall, the Cleveland Cavaliers have compiled a 4-41 record.


__* I love how much pride the Big Ten schools have taken in the creation of the conference match play championship, which kicks off the spring for all 11 teams for a third straight year this weekend at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. When I wrote about ranking the spring tournaments, no fewer than five of the programs in the Big Ten quickly noted either through a press release or on Twitter that the match play was in the top 15.

The conference coaches should be proud of what they've created. The event is a great way to return from the winter break, giving the schools a trip to a warmer weather locale, a few days to get their competitive juices flowing, yet not cost any of them the potential for a lot of losses toward their head-to-head records the way a stroke-play tournament with a 15- or 18-team field might.

I'm truly surprised more conferences haven't given this thing a look; scheduling can be tricky as all schools have to free up two or three days on their calendars, but I think the "experience" is worth it in two senses of the word: A) the knock off the rust factor and B) the competitive team match-play factor. I have to believe getting some reps in a match play tournament could help a program come NCAA tournament time if it qualified for the Elite Eight at the national championship. Just ask Michigan in 2009.

So who will win this year? Hard to say, but I like No. 1 seed Illinois considering the depth the Fighting Illini has in its lineup. Then again, don't count out the defending champion Northwestern. Junior Eric Chun has a 7-0-1 record over the last two year.

I think the defending NCAA champions will fare better on this trip (the second of three cross country events they've got scheduled in 2010-11), but if they don't it will be curious to see the psyche of this team and how it handles matters. I've written a lot about Augusta State in recent months, and judging from my conversations with Josh Gregory and the team, I'm pretty sure we're going to see a group is still very hungry for respect. That said, the next 54 holes will be interesting to watch.



Big Ten Match Play Championship

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to

PGA National GC, Palm Beach Gardens, Calif.

Feb. 11-12

Host: Big Ten conference

Defending champion: Northwestern df. Purdue, 6-0

Field: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin

Skinny: Only regular season college tournament that will be shown on national TV (Big Ten Network)

__SunTrust Gator Invitational

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Mark Bostick GC at University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla.

Feb. 12-13

Host: Florida

Defending champion: Florida (+1/841) by 18 strokes over Florida State; Mississippi's Jonathan Randolph (E/210) by one stroke over LSU's Andrew Loupe

Field: Auburn, Coastal Carolina, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Jacksonville, Lamar, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Florida, UAB, UCF

Skinny: Those picking the host Gators to continue their win streak at the event (seven straight victories) will like to hear that Florida has faced nine of the 13 teams in the field, falling only to Auburn and LSU while accumulating a 7-2 head-to-head record.

__Battle at The Beach

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Pelican Hill GC (Ocean North), Newport Coast, Calif.

Feb. 13-15

Host: UCLA & Long Beach State

Defending champion: UCLA (-10/1,055) by one stroke over Arkansas and Washington; Washington's Chris Williams and Arkansas' David Lingmerth (-8/205)

Field: Arizona State, Arkansas, Augusta State, Colorado, Long Beach State, Oregon State, San Diego, San Diego State, Tennessee, UC Davis, UCLA, UT-Arlington, Washington

Skinny: Interesting field here with a trio of teams coming from the southeast. Meanwhile, I've got to believe the schools that have already played an event (ASU, SDSU, UCLA, Washington) have an advantage on the rest of the field.

__UTSA/Oak Hills Invitational

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Oak Hills CC, San Antonio

Feb. 14-15

Host: UT-San Antonio

Defending champion: Texas Tech (+23/875) by two strokes over Southeastern Louisiana; S.E. Louisiana (-2/211) by one stroke over Wichita State's Dustin Garza

Field: Air Force, Baylor, Illinois State, Iowa State, Kansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, North Texas, Oklahoma, Sam Houston State, Southeastern Louisiana, Stephen F. Austin State, Texas State, Texas Tech, Tulsa, UT-San Antonio, Wichita State

Skinny: Terrific venue for the event and an intriguing group of schools in the field.


Lady Puerto Rico Classic

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Rio Mar GC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico

Feb. 13-15

Host: Purdue

Defending champion: Alabama (+8/872) by 11 strokes over Purdue; Oklahoma State's Caroline Hedwall (-7/209) by three strokes over Baylor's Hannah Burke and Georgia's Marta Silva Zamora

Field: Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa State, Kent State, Michigan, N.C. State, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Penn State, Purdue, SMU, TCU, Texas Tech

Skinny: Seven top-25 teams from the most recent Golf World/NGCA coaches' poll are in the field makes for a pretty interesting event to start the spring season. Going to see who's been putting in the winter work.

__UCF Challenge

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Red Tail GC, Sorrento, Fla.

Feb. 13-15

Host: UCF

Defending champion: Texas A&M (+29/893) by two strokes over Georgia State; Texas A&M's Julia Boland (-6/210) by five strokes over Texas A&M's Sarah Zwartynski

Field: Augusta State, Baylor, Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, Georgia State, Illinois State, Kennesaw State, Kentucky, Memphis, Minnesota, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Tulane, UCF, USF, UT-San Antonio

Skinny: In the previous four editions of the event, the individual medalist has always come from the team champion.

__The Gold Rush by Golfsmith

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Old Ranch GC, Seal Beach, Calif.

Feb. 14-15

Host: Long Beach State

Defending champion: Canceled due to weather in 2010

Field: BYU, Cal Poly, Colorado State, CSU Fullerton, CSU Northridge, Gonzaga, Long Beach State, New Mexico State, Portland State, San Diego State, San Francisco, UC Riverside


__Northrup Grumman Regional Challenge

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif.

Feb. 14-16

Host: Ohio State

Defending champion: USC (+24/876) by three strokes over Pepperdine; Pepperdine's Lisa McCloskey (-2/211) by three strokes over USC's Jennifer Song and Pepperdine's Taylore Karle