News & ToursFebruary 18, 2011

This Week's Syllabus: Feb. 17-23

__FAB FIVE

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

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1. Oklahoma State (Last week: 1)

Toughest thing for Cowboys might be to avoid boredom right about now. I don't mean that to say that they think they're better than all comers. It's that with lots of the spring season left, the tournaments that will mean the most are still a ways off. Staying excited about regular season events could be a challenge. Mike McGraw, however, is probably the best coach you could find to help avoid this issue.

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

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2. UCLA (3)

Victory at the Battle at the Beach this week shows that the Bruins knows how to finish. Derek Freeman's group appears to be as deep as any squad in the country, with seven different players having posted top-20 finishes this season.Connor Driscoll coming off a career best T-3 showing and Patrick Cantlay has a win and two runners-up finishes in his last three starts.

Next event: USC Invitational, North Ranch CC, Westlake Village, Calif., Feb. 28-March 1

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3. Florida (2)

Hard to drop a team that just won its second straight title, but the Gators actually had to sweat things out at home at the Gator Invitational to claim their home event for the eighth straight time. Had the victory come on the road, maybe they'd still be No. 2. Curious to see what the team will do when they actually leave the Sunshine State next month.

Next event: John Hayt Invitational, Sawgrass CC, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Feb. 27-March 1

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4. Alabama (4)

With the Crimson Tide being the last of the power programs to start the spring, you've got to think they're itching to get things rolling. One worry would be if they've been on the sidelines too long. The waiting can be the hardest part.

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

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5. Auburn (NR)

Gave the Gators a run for their money in Gainesville last week. Runner-up finish is the Tigers fourth straight and fifth top-five showing in five starts. Blayne Barber is the headliner, but there's some depth on this team (Niclas Carlsson,Michael Hebert) that shouldn't be ignored.

Next event: John Hayt Invitational, Sawgrass CC, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Feb. 27-March 1

WOMEN

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1. Alabama (Last week: 1)

It wasn't just that the Crimson Tide won the Lady Puerto Rico for the third straight time they played in the event. It wasn't just that they won the Lady Puerto Rico while carrying the bullseye on their back. It was that they jumped right out and seized control of the tournament in the first round, taking a 14-stroke lead that probably felt like 35. Plus Stephanie Meadow's individual victory gives the squad four players with Ws on their resume. Nice way to start the spring.

Next event: Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, English Turn CC, New Orleans, Feb. 27-March 1

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2. USC (3)

Took Andrea Gaston more than a decade for one of her Trojan teams to win the Northrup Grumman last year, only to see them defend the title by two strokes earlier this week. Freshman Sophia Popov closed the fall nicely and then had a top-10 at Palos Verdes as her school won its first title of the 2010-11 season. If she becomes a consistent No. 3 to back up Lizette Salas and Lisa McCloskey, USC will have a lot to look forward to this spring.

Next event: Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, English Turn CC, New Orleans, Feb. 27-March 1

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3. UCLA (2)

Shows you how high the expectations are when a third-place showing at Northrup Grumman feels like a let down. Ari Gulugian's T-3 goes a bit for naught as she was playing as an individual. Count her rather than__Stephanie Kono__ and UCLA would have been six strokes lower and the team champions. Meanwhile, four other Bruins posted top-20s, suggesting good things are in store for the program.

Next event: Bruin Wave Invitational, Robinson Ranch GC, Santa Clarita, Calif., Feb. 28-March 2

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4. LSU (4)

Like the Alabama men, the Lady Tigers have to be anxious to finally get going after seeing results from all the other top women's squads the last few days. The question is whether they're going to be overanxious when they finally hit the tee.*

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

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5. Arizona State (NR)

I'm not even sure that Melissa Luellen herself could have predicted the solid start her new Sun Devils squad would have gotten off to, but a third and a second for a group that's been together all of five weeks is pretty amazing. Of course it helps to have Carlota Ciganda in the No. 1 spot. Her individual victory at the Northrup Grumman suggests her final year of college might be filled with lots of victories.

Next event: Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, English Turn CC, New Orleans, Feb. 27-March 1

STAT OF THE WEEK

80

First-round score of Texas State's Krista Puisite at the Claude Jacobs Challenge. The sophomore from Latvia then managed to shoot rounds of 71-74 before beating Tulsa's Kamryn Ruffin in a playoff to claim medalist honors.

RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

All D-I men's college golfers should be DVRing this week's PGA Tour event at Riviera CC. This is the site for the national championship in 2012.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

  • I'm not exactly sure what to make out of the Auburn women's team, which opened the spring season with an 11th-place showing at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic, but I think it might be time to worry if you're a Tigers' fan. Just once in five starts during the 2010-11 season have they finished inside the top-10 at a tournament. It's an surprising feat when you consider that if you look at Auburn's first five starts in the previous 16 seasons, they have finished outside the top-10 in a tournament a grand total of four times, the last one being in the fall of 1999. You have to go back to fall 1992 to see the last time Auburn finished worse than 10th more than one in its first five starts.

Despite the showing in Puerto Rico, Auburn coach Kim Evans remained upbeat. "This tournament was a good learning experience for me and the team," she said in a press release after the event. "We learned some things this week that we can take back to Auburn and build off of for the rest of the spring."

The most frustrating part had to be Cydney Clanton finishing T-75 after shooting rounds of 79-83-77. It was the second worst showing in Clanton's career (behind only a T-80 finish at the 2009 East Regional), not exactly the way you'd want to start the final semester of your senior season.

I'm confident Clanton will rebound fine, but the question of whether she can carry this Auburn teams a tough one. It's still early and there is lots of time for Evans to help this group discover its identity. However, you have to wonder if the negative scar tissue that's accumulating might be too much to neglect come the post-season.

__TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS

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____Puerto Rico Classic

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

Rio Mar GC (River Course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico

Feb. 20-22

Host: Purdue

Field: Alabama, Clemson, East Tennessee State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Michigan, N.C. State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Texas, UNC Greensboro, Virginia Tech

Defending champion: Texas (-42/822) by six strokes over Oklahoma State; Oklahoma State's Kevin Tway (-17/199) by three strokes over Texas' Cody Gribble

Skinny: Curious to see if the extremely low scoring from a year ago will take place again in 2011.

__Mobile Bay Intercollegiate

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

Magnolia Grove GC (Crossings Course), Mobile, Ala.

Feb. 21-22

Host: South Alabama

Field: Akron, Arkansas State, Charlotte, Illinois State, Kentucky, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisville, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi State, South Alabama, South Florida, Southern Mississippi, Troy, Vanderbilt

Defending champion: Mississippi (+13/877) by one stroke over Illinois State; South Alabama's Jack Hiluta and Middle Tennessee State's Kent Bulle (-3/213)__

Skinny:__ Third time that South Alabama will host its spring event at Magnolia Grove.

__Wexford Plantation Intercollegiate

__Wexford Plantation GC, Hilton Head, S.C.

Feb. 21-22

Host: Francis Marion

Field: Connecticut, Davidson, DePaul, Elon, Francis Marion, Furman, Indiana, Ohio, Presbyterian, Richmond, Samford, USC Aiken, Western Carolina, William & Mary

Defending champions: Wake Forest (+7/583) by one stroke over Francis Marion; Davidson's Jackson Taylor and Wake Forest's Lee Bedford (-2/142)

Skinny: Five-year-event boasts two past champions in the field--USC Aiken (2006, 2009) and Elon (2008)

__WOMEN

Peg Barnard Invitational

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

Stanford GC, Stanford, Calif.

Feb. 19-20

Host: Stanford

Field: California, Colorado, Fresno State, Rollins, San Jose State, Santa Clara, Stanford, UC Davis, Washington, Washington State

Defending champion: Stanford (+28/596) by one stroke over California; Cal's Joanne Lee and Stanford's Sally Watson (+2/144)

Skinny: The Cardinal has won their home event the last three times it has been held and six times overall.

__Kiawah Island Intercollegiate

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

Kiawah Island Resort (Cougar Point & Oak Point), Kiawah Island, S.C.

Feb. 20-22

Host: College of Charleston

Field: Akron, Arkansas State, Bucknell, Campbell, Central Arkansas, Charleston Southern, College of Charleston, The Citadel, Daytona State CC, Drake, Elon, Faulkner, Florida International, Houston Baptist, Iowa, Jacksonville, Jacksonville State, James Madison, Longwood, Miami (Fla.), Middle Tennessee State, Nebraska, Newberry, Old Dominion, Oral Roberts, Presbyterian, Richmond, S.C. State, USC Upstate, Western Carolina, Wichita State, William & Mary, Winthrop, Wofford

Defending champion: Miami (Fla.) (+28/892) by one stroke over Minnesota; Oral Roberts' Crystal Reeves and East Tennessee State's Nina Muehl (-3/213)

Skinny: Tournament boasts the biggest field (34 schools) of the women's season. College of Charleston coach Jamie Futrell says Kiawah Island locale helps attract the jumbo field. Amazingly junior college power Daytona State might actually be the favorite.

__Central District Invitational

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

River Wilderness CC, Parrish, Fla.

Feb. 21-22

Host: Michigan State

Field: Arkansas, Baylor, Indiana, Iowa State, Kent State, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, TCU, Texas A&M

Defending champion: Florida (-7/857) by 29 strokes over TCU; Florida's Isabelle Lendl and Marika Lendl (-4/212)

Skinny: Among the more underrated tournaments on the women's spring calendar. Seven teams in the latest Golf World/NGCA coaches' poll will be competing this year.

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