News & ToursFebruary 21, 2008

This week's syllabus: Feb. 21-27

__THE FAB FIVE

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

MEN

[__

Alabama_logo_new

  1. Alabama (Last week's rank: 2)

Crimson Tide proved a few points with four-shot victory at the John Hayt Collegiate: 1.) Michael Thompson appears to be recovering just fine from the broken hand. 2.) This team isn't going away any time soon.

Next event: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 29-March 2

[

Ucla_logo

  1. UCLA (5)

Second-place finish at John Hayt after the cross-country trip to Florida is pretty solid. Jason Kang's second-place finish individually is also a bright spot. If Philip Francis or Lucas Lee can start getting hot, the Bruins could be very dangerous.

Next event: Southern Highlands Collegiate, Southern Highlands CC, Las Vegas, March 7-9

[

Charlotte_logo_new

  1. Charlotte (1)

A tie for fifth at the John Hayt marks the first time stroke-play event the 49ers have competed in that they haven't won. Only one player (Trevor Murphy) finished in the top 10 individually. Not a huge cause for concern, but their trip to Las Vegas next month just got a little more interesting.

Next event: Southern Highlands Collegiate, Southern Highlands CC, Las Vegas, March 7-9

[

Tennessee_logo

  1. Tennessee (3)

It tells you something about the mid-set in Knoxville when the team finished T-3 at the John Hayt, against a very strong field, and coach Jim Kelson described it as a "mediocre week." These guys are for real.

Next event: USC Collegiate Invitational, North Ranch CC, Westlake Village, Calif., March 3-4

[

Georgia_small_logo

  1. Georgia (4)

The Bulldogs are the 1,000-pound gorilla in this whole "who's No. 1 thing?" They've kept they're No. 1 ranking in the latest Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll but need to be sure not to come out flat next week in Puerto Rico.

Next event: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 29-March 2

__WOMEN

[__

Ucla_logo_2

  1. UCLA (1)

Four top-10 finishes at the Northrop Grumman en route to their team title. I'm still digesting just how good a performance that was in the spring opener.

Next event: Arizona Wildcat Invitational, Arizona National GC, Tucson, Feb. 25-27

[

Duke_new_logo

  1. Duke (2)

Three likely scenarios for the Blue Devils next week in the desert: 1.) They win the event by 10 strokes with Amanda Blumenherst going nuts on the greens. 2.) They win the event by two strokes with Blumenherst holing a couple long putts. 3.) They lose the event by three strokes to a talented West Coast squad whose nickname rhymes with Gruin with Blumenherst putting only average (but still shooting three 67s). One likely scenario you won't see: Blue Devils lose by anything more than five strokes.

Next event: Arizona Wildcat Invitational, Arizona National GC, Tucson, Feb. 25-27

[

Usc

  1. USC (3)

I just wrote a story in this week's Golf World about teams getting a boost by adding freshmen to their line-ups midseason. The Trojans' addition of Purdue transfer Stefanie Endstrasser will likely work much the same way, as her T-10 finish at the Northrop Grumman tournament hinted.

Next event: Arizona Wildcat Invitational, Arizona National GC, Tucson, Feb. 25-27

[

Florida_gator_logo

  1. Florida (4)

I picked California's Nancy McDaniel for my mid-season coach of the year on the women's side, but when all is said and done I've got to think Gator coach Jill Briles-Hinton is going to get a lot of consideration. After losing Mallory Blackwelder in the off-season (transfer to Kentucky to play for her mom) then Sandra Gal during the winter break (to the LPGA Tour), having Florida continue to contend nationally is nothing short of amazing.

Next event: SunTrust Lady Gator Invitational, Mark Bostick GC at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., Feb. 22-24

[

Asu_logo_new

  1. Arizona State (5)

The search for a viable fifth player continues in Tempe. On the plus side, the development of junior Azahara Munoz is very impressive, with her stroke average rising from 74.0 last season to 71.73 this season after her T-2 finish at the Northrop Grumman. The Sun Devils are also two-time defending champions in Tucson.

Next event: Arizona Wildcat Invitational, Arizona National GC, Tucson, Feb. 25-27

STAT OF THE WEEK

4

Of the six best 54-hole scores posted in Michigan State women's golf history held by senior Sara Brownafter the 22-year-old from Tucson won the Central District Invitational Tuesday with a four-under 212 total, seven shots better than runner-up Julia Potter of Missouri. Brown's 212 was the second lowest score behind Rachel Meikle's 210 at the Northwestern Invitational in April 2006. She also has finished with a 215 score in three other tournaments. (For a link to a podcast from Sara Brown, click here.)


__

WHAT TO WATCH FOR__

  • Could there be a method to Michigan State women's coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll's madness? There wasn't much time to knock the rust off when the Spartans traveled to Southern California earlier this month for the first start of the spring season at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge. Not surprisingly, they finished 14th out of 15 teams. But when they headed to Florida for the Central District Invitational the chance to start their competitive season earlier than most of the others in the field at River WIlderness CC in Parrish, Fla., was evident in the Spartans' 10-shot win over Texas A&M.

Give credit to Slobodnik-Stoll, not a bad player in her own right after having won the Golf Association of Michigan women's player of the year award in 2007, for being willing to accept not being at 100 percent in the first event to make sure her team was better prepared for the rest of the season. Don't be surprised if Michigan State remains a step ahead of the rest of its Midwestern/Northern competitors.

  • The Baylor men's two-shot victory at the Rice Intercollegiate this past week was more impressive than you'd think at first blush when you realize that the Bears played with only four golfers in the final round. Colton Williams, who had shot 67-77 to hold a share of the 36-hole lead, withdrew from the event after the death of a close friend to his family. The rest of the team shot a nine-over 297--led by Jeff Gerlich's two-under 70--to hang on and beat a hard charging UC Davis squad for Baylor's second victory of the 2007-08 season.

"I thought that our guys handled themselves well today," said coach Greg Priest. "There was a little bit of pressure since all the scores were counting today, but we played well. Jeff played well to shoot 70, and I though that he had a solid tournament. Cody [Paladino] made a quadruple-bogey on the fifth hole, but he hung in there and really battled. [__Wes Williams__, no relation to Colton] and Bill [Allcorn] just had really solid days on Monday and Tuesday."

While sad for their teammate, the rest of the Bears raised their games. It's a performance that will galvanize them the rest of this spring. Don't at all be surprised to see this Big 12 team continue to play well and be a sleeper pick to reach the NCAA Championship.

  • This week's SunTrust Lady Gator Invitational will be a return to competitive golf for Florida redshirt junior C.J. Kim, who has been out of action for more than a year still recovering from a horrific car accident she was in 2 1/2 years ago. She fractured her femur in the accident, an injury that she continues to rehabilitate. She couldn't practice during an initial six-month hiatus and when she made a first attempt at returning to the course, she felt pain shoot up her leg. Kim went to see a doctor and had to have surgery. She continues to experience pain walking, but with the Gators playing at home she said she is grateful for the chance to try and resume her college career.

__UPCOMING TOURNAMENTS

MEN__

UCF/Rio Pinar Invitational

Rio Pinar CC

Orlando

Feb. 25-26

Host: Central Florida

Field: Arkansas State, Central Florida, Iowa State, Kentucky, Louisville, Memphis, Mercer, Mississippi, North Florida, Ohio State, Old Dominion, South Alabama, South Florida, Southern Mississippi, Tenn.-Chattanooga, Texas-Arlington, Tulsa, Wichita State

Defending champion: Tenn.-Chattanooga (two-under 862) by one over Tulsa; Brett Myers, Tulsa (eight-over 208) by three over UTC's Bryce Ledford

Skinny: It will be interesting to watch the defending champions, ranked 16th, in their spring opener as it's one of the first times since they've become a top-ranked school where they'll be the hunted rather than the hunters

All-American Golf Classic

Tradition Course at Cypresswood (Par 72, 7,220 yards)

Spring, Texas

Feb. 25-26

Host: Houston

Field: Arkansas-Little Rock, Baylor, Houston, Jacksonville State, Kansas, Lamar, Louisiana-Lafayette, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico State, North Texas, Texas Southern, Texas State

Defending champion: Kansas (eight-over 872) by one over Lamar; Gary Woodland, Kansas (five-under 211) by four over Kansas' Tyler Docking

Skinny: Should be a shootout between Lamar and Baylor. Watch for Cardinal All-American candidate Casey Clendenon to pick up where he left off in the fall.

Anteater Invitational

Santa Ana CC (Par 72, 6,542 yards)

Newport Beach, Calif.

Feb. 25-26

Host: UC Irvine

Field: Arizona (JV team), Cal Poly, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, Oral Roberts, Idaho, Santa Clara, Portland, Loyola Marymount, San Francisco

Defending champion: UC Irvine (20-over 884) by 28 over St. Mary's (Calif.); Domingo Jojola, San Francisco (four-under 212) by four over UC Irvine's Kenny Kim

Skinny: The tournament is in its 28th year.

Wexford Plantation Intercollegiate

Wexford Plantation GC

Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Feb. 25-26

Host: Francis Marion

Field: Bowling Green, Davidson, East Carolina, Elon, Francis Marion, Furman, George Washington, Kennesaw State, Marshall, Northern Illinois, Oakland, Presbyterian, USC-Aiken, Winthrop, Wofford

Defending champion: Tenn.-Chattanooga (33-over 897) by three over Marquette; Mike Van Sickle, Marquette (three-under 213) by five over Toledo's Ciaran McAleavey

Skinny: This will be the first college event in any sport that Northern Illinois will be competing in since the tragic shooting on the school's DeKalb, Ill., campus Feb. 14.



WOMEN

SunTrust Lady Gator Invitational

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

Mark Bostick Course at the University of Florida (Par 70, 5,927 yards)

Gainesville, Fla.

Feb. 22-24

Host: Florida

Field: Augusta State, Colorado, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Georgia State, Kentucky, Louisville, Mississippi, North Carolina, UNC Greensboro, Oregon, South Florida, Tenn.-Chattanooga, Wake Forest

Defending champion: Florida (36-over 876) by 14 over TCU; Sandra Gal, Florida (even-par 210) by five over TCU's Catherine Matranga

Skinny: Can Wake Forest produce a third-straight medalist in a tournament, after having Natalie Sheary and Nanette Hill win the past two events that the Demon Deacons have played in? It's a tall task considering a solid Florida team is playing at home.

Lady Puerto Rico Classic

Coco Beach GC (Par 72, 6,000 yards)

Rio Grande, Puerto Rico

Feb. 24-26

Host: Purdue

__Field:__Alabama, Arkansas, Central Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Iowa State, Kent State, LSU, Michigan, Minnesota, N.C. State, Oklahoma, Purdue, South Carolina, TCU, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Wisconsin

Defending champion: Auburn (nine-over 873) by five over Georgia and Oklahoma State; Alina Lee, Georgia, Jenny Suh, Alabama, Mariana Macias, Auburn, Pernilla Lindberg, Oklahoma State, Valentine Derrey, TCU

Skinny: Last year there was a five-way tie for medalist, pretty rare for a tournament that went the full 54 holes. Don't expect the same this time.

Kitahara Fresno State Invitational

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

Copper River CC (Par 72, 6,004 yards)

Fresno, Calif.

Feb. 25-26

Host: Fresno State

Field: Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Kansas, Long Beach State, Nevada, New Mexico State, Portland State, Sacramento State, San Diego State, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Tulsa, UC Davis, UC Irvine

Defending champion: Fresno State (20-over 596) by two over UC Irvine; Kay Hoey, Long Beach State, (two-over 146) by one over Colorado's Lindsay Caljouw

Skinny: Hoey not only is the defending champion, but has a chance at winning the event for a third time after claiming the inaugural title in 2005

Arizona Wildcat Invitational

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

Arizona National GC (Par 71, 6,238 yards)

Tucson, Ariz.

Feb. 25-27

__ Host:__ Arizona

__ Field:__ Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, BYU, California, Duke, New Mexico, Oklahoma State, Pepperdine, Southern California, Stanford, Texas, UCLA, UNLV, Vanderbilt, Washington

__ Defending champion:__ Arizona State (16-over 868) by eight over Duke; Amanda Blumenherst, Duke (three-under 210) by four over ASU's Anna Nordqvist and USC's Dewi-Claire Schreefel

__ Skinny:__ Six of the nation's top seven teams are in the field, but the tournament's impact on women's golf is even greater considering it's the last time Duke competes against West Coast titans UCLA, Arizona State and USC until the postseason. The Bruins can even their record versus the Blue Devils at 2-2, plus bruise the three-time defending NCAA champ's psyche, with a W. Conversely, Duke keeps its air of invincibility with a solid performance at Arizona National GC. The tone for the spring will be set in Tucson.

More from The Loop