News & ToursFebruary 6, 2009

This week's syllabus: Feb. 6-12

__THE FAB FIVE

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

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  1. Georgia (Last syllabus: 1)

Adam Mitchell had a nice chance to hob-knob with U.S. Walker Cup captain Buddy Marucci, playing in the same threesome during yesterday's first round of the Jones Cup Invitational. "Yes Mr. Marucci, Merion is the most underrated course on the East Coast."

Spring opener: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar GC (River course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 27-March 1

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  1. USC (3)

Trojans start the spring like they ended the fall, carding a 13-shot victory at the UH Hilo Intercollegiate. Four players card top-20 finishes, led by Jamie Lovemark's runner-up showing, his fourth top-10 of the season.

Next event: USC Collegiate Invitational, North Ranch CC, Westlake Village, Calif., Feb. 23-24

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  1. Oklahoma State (2)

Not sure he needed it, but Rickie Fowler had to have gotten a nice boost of confidence after making the cut and finishing T-58 at the PGA Tour's FBR Open last weekend.

Spring opener: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar GC (River course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 27-March 1

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  1. Alabama (4)

In 116 college rounds, senior Matthew Swan has only failed to have his score count for the Crimson Tide 16 times.

Spring opener: John Hayt Collegiate Invitational, Sawgrass CC, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Feb. 22-24

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  1. Illinois (5)

Fighting Illini grab the top seed in the Big Ten's new match-play event.

Spring opener: Big Ten Match Play Championship, Coral Springs, Fla., Feb. 13-14




WOMEN

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  1. UCLA (1)

Bruins collected three wins in the fall while playing the country's third toughest scheduled.

Spring opener: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 9-11

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  1. Arizona State (2)

With all the comings and goings on the Sun Devils roster since their final fall start, might be helpful to check out the new team picture on the ASU website.

Spring opener: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 9-11

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  1. USC (3)

Both Lizette Salas (70.82) and Jennifer Song (71.18) both are currently on pace to break the Trojans' single-season scoring average record of 72.06, set by Irene Cho in 2005-06.

Spring opener: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 9-11

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  1. Oklahoma State (4)

Cowgirl freshmen Caroline Hedwall and Caroline Masson have combined average of 71.83, best in the country for an freshmen class.

Spring opener: Arizona Wildcat Invitational, Peninsula GC, Puerto Penasco, Mexico, Feb. 22-24

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  1. Wake Forest (5)

Demon Deacons make the cross-country trek for spring opener. Will early spring start be good or bad?

Spring opener: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 9-11


STAT OF THE WEEK

Between 10th and 11th

The average finish the past two seasons for Big Ten men's teams in their first tournament of the spring. As I wrote in the magazine last week, a slow start in the spring is something the conference coaches hope can be fixed with the creation of the new Big Ten Match Play Championship, set for Feb. 13-14 at Heron Bay GC in Coral Springs, Fla. By getting out of the cold of the Midwest and banging heads against each other, the hope is that the schools will shake the rust off and be more prepared for the run to the postseason.

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WHAT TO WATCH FOR__

Chad_vivolo

  • The three-shot victory by the Pepperdine men this past week at the Arizona Intercollegiate, the school's first win since October 2007, was particularly impressive considering how the final round shook out. The Waves' top player, Andrew Putnam, had me five eagles during the first two rounds and was in second place individually heading into the final 18, but shot an uncharacteristic 77. Yet fellow sophomore Chad Vivolo (right) picked him and the rest of his Wave teammates up with a closing 65 at Arizona National GC in Tucson. "This was great for Chad, just a great confidence-booster for him," Pepperdine coach John Geiberger said afterward. "Getting a 65 out there on a calm day would be great, but with today's windy conditions and the challenging hole locations, it was really impressive." Two things here: Don't expect Putnam to shoot a whole lot more final-round 77s; he's got too much talent. Meanwhile, if Vivolo can step up like that throughout the spring, Pepperdine is looking at a return to the top 25 in the near future.

  • UCLA freshman Gregor Main made the cut at the PGA Tour's Buick Invitational by two shots, sitting one-over 145 for 36 holes after Monday qualifying to play in the event. As was the case for Fowler, the confidence boost this has to give Main likely will carry into a successful spring season for the first-year player out of Danville, Calif.

  • The watch list for the Ben Hogan Award comes out next Monday. Not many surprises to speak of--I'm on the committee that helps with the selections--but I think the most interesting thing we found in this first stage of the process is how few players have really separated themselves from the pack. Bottom line: as many as a dozen guys are real contenders for the national player of the year awards. â¿¿

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TOURNAMENTS TO WATCH

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Mardi Gras Invitational __

TPC Louisiana, Avondale, La. (Par 72, 7,000 yards)

Feb. 9-10

Host: New Orleans

Field: Campbell, Kennesaw State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, McNeese State, Mercer, New Orleans, Nicholls State, Santa Clara, Southeastern Louisiana, Southern Mississippi, St. Mary's (Calif.), Texas-San Antonio, Troy, West Florida

Defending champion: New Event

Skinny: Not only are the Pirates hosting the first college tournament in the New Orleans area since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but their playing it at the host course for the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic of New Orleans

__WOMEN

Lady Puerto Rico Classic__

Coco Beach G&CC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico (Par 72, 6,219 yards)

Feb. 8-10

Host: Purdue

Field: Florida State, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa State, Kent State, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, N.C. State, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Purdue, TCU, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Wisconsin

Defending champion: Alabama (16-over 880) by three strokes over LSU; Stacy Lewis, Arkansas (eight-under 208) by four strokes over Purdue's Maude Aimee Leblanc

Skinny: Crimson Tide entered final round in fourth place before rallying for the victory a year ago.

Braveheart Classic

Oak Valley GC, Beaumont, Calif. (Par 72, 6,050 yards)

Feb. 9-10

Host: UC Riverside

Field: Cal Baptist, Cal Poly, CSU Bakersfield, CSU Northridge, CSU San Marco, UC Riverside, Drake, Eastern Michigan, Nova Southeastern, Portland, Santa Clara, Southern Utah, Utah Valley

Defending champion: Cal Poly (53-over 629) by three strokes over San Diego State; Stacy Lewis, Arkansas (seven-over 151) by one stroke over Cal Baptist's Adriana Niclotti and British Colombia's Kaitlin Troopâ¿¿Skinny: State schools in California get chance to test themselves against each other.

Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge

(For live scoring, link here to Golfstat)

Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes Estates, Calif. (Par 71, 5,912 yards)

Feb. 9-11

Host: Ohio State

Field: Arizona State, Baylor, BYU, California, Denver, East Carolina, Florida, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Pepperdine, Stanford, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC, Wake Forest

Defending champion: UCLA (24-over 876) by seven strokes over Florida; Natalie Sheary, Wake Forest (two-over 215) by one stroke over five golfers

Skinny: Tough venue to open the spring season at as Palos Verdes' slick greens put a premium on putting. Only three times in 13 years has the individual medalist broken par, the last being in 2004.

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