News & ToursMarch 13, 2008

This week's syllabus: March 13-19

__THE FAB FIVE

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

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  1. Alabama (Last week: 1)

Somehow only one Crimson Tide player is currently in the top 70 in the Golfstat Cup ranking (Michael Thompson at No. 2). Nevertheless, Alabama has five golfers with sub-73 stroke averages, three with individual victories and one with four top-five finishes--explaining their new spot atop the Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll.

Next event: Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational, Forest Heights CC, Statesboro, Ga., March 14-16

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  1. Tennessee (2)

The Volunteers are never out of a tournament, as they proved with their comeback second-place showing at the USC Intercollegiate. And they too have a balanced lineup, with four golfers with sub-73 averages, two with individual victories and one with four top-five finishes.

Next event: Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational, Forest Heights CC, Statesboro, Ga., March 14-16

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  1. Charlotte (4)

The 49ers' runner-up finish, by two strokes to host UNLV, at the Southern Highlands Invitational was just what we needed to see to convince us that this squad is here for the long run. Another tough test awaits at the GC of Georgia before Charlotte can ease into the postseason.

Next event: U.S. Collegiate, GC of Georgia, Alpharetta, Ga., March 24-26

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  1. Georgia (5)

And to think how good the Bulldogs might be if Brian Harman actually was living up to his potential? How can this former U.S. Walker Cup player have the worst stroke average of UGa's starting five? Lefty, it's time to start playing like the All-American that you really are.

Next event: Linger Longer Invitational, Reynolds Plantation, Greensboro, Ga., March 14-16

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  1. USC (3)

I just get this feeling that Jamie Lovemark is about ready to show us the goods again soon. Add that to the fact that Rory Hie, Tim Sluiter and Matthew Giles have all had impressive performances in recent weeks and you get the sense the Trojans are only going to improve.

Next event: U.S. Collegiate, GC of Georgia, Alpharetta, Ga., March 24-26

__WOMEN

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  1. Duke (1)

Alison Whitaker's victory at the UCF Challenge, upstaging her Blue Devil teammates, demonstrates just why Duke is still the most dangerous team in the women's game. You're going to have to beat the Blue Devils if you're going to keep them from winning a fourth straight NCAA title.

Next event: Liz Murphey Collegiate, University of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga., March 21-23

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  1. UCLA (2)

En route to a third-place finish at the UCF Challenge, 12 strokes back of winner Duke, the Bruins made it four straight tournaments with at least one player finishing in the top 10 individually.

Next event: Ping/ASU Invitational, ASU Karsten Cse., Tempe, Ariz., April 4-6

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  1. USC (3)

Great first round at the UCF Challenge (281) was followed up by so-so second and third round and, ultimately, a fifth-place finish. Would love to see senior Dewi Claire Schreefel be a bit more consistent.

Next event: Ping/ASU Invitational, ASU Karsten Cse., Tempe, Ariz., April 4-6

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  1. Florida (4)

Ho-hum ... another top-five finish, this time a fourth at the UCF Challenge. That makes eight in eight tournaments. Only knock you can make against the Gators is that they're 0-5 head-to-head against Duke and UCLA this season.

Next event: Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational, University of Texas GC, Austin, Texas, March 17-19

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  1. Arizona State (NR)

Sun Devils out of the penalty box this week and back in the top five, but they're going to have to show us something out in Hawaii.

Next event: Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational, Kaneohe Klipper GC, Honolulu, March 17-19


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STAT OF THE WEEK

6 out of the last 7__

The number of years that the winner of the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational has gone on to be named either a first-team or second-team All-American by the National Golf Coaches Association. (The lone winner not named an All-American was Chris Brady of Vanderbilt in 2004.)

First team

2007--Maria Hernandez, Purdue

2006--Amanda Blumenherst, Duke

2005--Stacy Lewis, Arkansas

2001--Young-A Yang, Tennessee

Second team

2003--Jessica Reese, Texas

2002--Janice Olivencia, Texas


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WHAT TO WATCH FOR__

  • The most-often heard complaint regarding the men's D-I golf committee moving toward medal/match play to crown an NCAA champ starting in 2009 is that schools don't compete in any regular-season tournaments that use such a format. To help remedy that the GCAA announced yesterday its Callaway Golf Collegiate Match Play will be re-tooled for the 2008-09 season to follow whatever format the D-I committee adopts. The event will move to the spring (March 29-31) at The Farms GC in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and have all 16 teams play 36 holes of stroke play. The top eight advance to a championship bracket with the remaining teams playing a consolation bracket. Each bracket then will follow the new NCAA Championship format, giving at least some schools an early glimpse at what the postseason will look like.

In the coming days you might hear some criticism from schools that won't qualify to participate that those who do will have an unfair advantage by getting to "try the format out" early. I'm not buying that. This was a pro-active move to give at least some schools a chance to get a feel for how things might work. You've got to hand it to the GCAA for being forward thinking on this.

  • Say what you will about the ".500 rule" in men's college golf, but the idea that it would allow middle- and even lower-profile schools the opportunity to compete more frequently against marquee teams (or in marquee events) seems to be ringing true. Consider this weekend's Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational at Forest Heights CC in Statesboro, Ga. The event is one of the best run tournaments you'll find, and this year four schools make their first-ever appearances: Alabama-Birmingham, Boston College, North Florida and Notre Dame.

Boston College's inclusion is particular interesting. The ACC school will be competing in its first tournament all season where the field includes other ACC teams (North Carolina and N.C. State). That's not a mis-print. Boston College hasn't faced ANY fellow ACC school in ANY tournament it has played all season until this weekend. Now I'm not optimistic that the Eagles are going to finish any higher than 15th in Georgia (although they are coming off a record-setting performance at the Treasure Coast Classic), and their inclusion is perhaps merely to allow other schools to rack up some wins to help with their records. Be that as it may, Boston College in all likelihood wouldn't have been invited to an event like this had the ".500 rule" not been passed and put in place this season. The result: B.C. players are going to have the chance to experience what it's like playing in this top-tier event. Tell me exactly how that's a bad thing.

  • Chris Paisley's T-48 finish at the Carpet Capital in September and his T-62 finish at the John Hayt in February are going to make him a very long shot to win national player of the year. Still, it's hard not to like how the Tennessee junior has performed in his other five starts: four top-five finishes, including a victory at the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate and plus a 3-1 record at the Callaway Match Play. The Newcastle, England native who turns 22 at the end of the month has another chance to bolster if nothing else a run at first-team All-American honors at this week's Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational.

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UPCOMING TOURNAMENTS

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Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational __

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

Forest Heights CC

Statesboro, Ga.

March 14-16

Host: Georgia Southern

Field: Alabama, Alabama-Birmingham, Auburn, Augusta State, Boston College, Florida, Georgia Southern, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan State, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, N.C. State, North Florida, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Tennessee

Defending champion: Georgia (10-under 854) by six over Alabama; Chris Kirk, Georgia (six-under 210) by two over Georgia's Brendon Todd

Skinny: It's one of the classic college events, with a 28-year history and a long list of stand-out winners. Interestingly, though, host Georgia Southern has never won its own event. It might be a tall task for the Eagles to do so this week, with six schools from the latest Golf World/Nike Golf top 25 in the field.

Linger Longer Invitational

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

Reynolds Landing GC (Par 72, 7,051 yards)

Greensboro, Ga.

March 14-16

Host: Mercer

Field: Chattanooga, Clemson, Eastern Michigan, Georgia, Georgia State, Kennesaw State, Memphis, Mercer, Michigan, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Purdue, South Alabama, Texas Tech

Defending champion: Georgia (29-under 835) by 19 over Georgia State; Chris Kirk, Georgia (10-under 206) by two over Memphis' Ian Rochester

Skinny: This event moves from its previous May spot on the calendar, post conference championships but a week prior to NCAA regionals. Each team is provided a home at Lake Oconee where they stay for the tournament. The Bulldogs, as defending champions, are afforded the use of the Ritz-Carlton Presidential House on the property.

Pinehurst Invitational by Gatorade

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

Pinehurst No. 8

Pinehurst, N.C.

March 16-18

Host: East Carolina/Indiana

Defending champion: Indiana (16-over 880) by five over Michigan; Jorge Campillo, Indiana (three-under 213) by two over Michigan's Bill Rankin and SMU's Colt Knost__

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Barona Collegiate Cup

Barona Creek GC (Par 72, 7,448 yards)

Lakeside, Calif.

March 17-18

Host: San Diego State

Field: Arizona, Coastal Carolina, Denver, Illinois, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, San Diego, San Diego State, SMU, Texas A&M, Wichita State

Defending champion: Alabama-Birmingham (24-under 840) by four over Wichita State; Zach Sucher, Alabama-Birmingham and Taylor Coffman, Nevada (13-under 209)--Sucher won in a playoff on the second hole

Skinny: The tournament previously was played in the fall but this seventh edition was pushed back to the spring this year because Barona Creek hosted the 2007 Nationwide Tour Championship in November.

__WOMEN

LSU/Cleveland Golf Classic __

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

University Club

Baton Rouge, La.

March 14-16

Host:LSU

Field: Alabama, Augusta State, Central Florida, Charleston, Florida State, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Louisville, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina, N.C. State, South Carolina, UNC Wilmington, Virginia, Wake Forest

Defending champion: Duke (eight-over 872) by six over Vanderbilt; Amanda Blumenherst, Duke (nine-under 207) by eight over Mississippi State's Amanda Mathis, Tennessee's Marci Turner and Auburn's Nicole Hage

Skinny: No LSU player has earned medalist honors at their home event since Meredith Duncan did it in 2002. Meanwhile, don't look for the super low scores that teams posted at the University Club last May at the East Regional, where low 18-, 36- and 54-hole records for both teams and individuals were all set.

Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational

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

University of Texas GC (Par 72, 6,344 yards)

Austin, Texas

March 17-19

Host: Texas

Field: Arkansas, Baylor, Florida, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, SMU, TCU, Texas, Wisconsin

Defending champion: Purdue (43-over 907) by 11 over TCU; Maria Hernandez, Purdue (one-over 217) by one over Arkansas' Stacy Lewis

Skinny: Originally dubbed the Texas Invitational when it was started in 1974, the tournament was renamed in honor of Betsy Rawls, a UT graduate in 1950 who majored in physics and math before embarking on her Hall of Fame LPGA career. ... Hernandez is looking to become the 35-year-old event's third repeat champion, joining Texas' Nancy Hager (1974, 1975) and Tulsa's Jody Rosenthal (1984, 1985).

Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational

Kaneohe Klipper GC

Honolulu

March 17-19

Host: Hawaii

Defending champion: Texas A&M (33-over 897) by two over Arizona; Danielle McVeigh, Texas A&M and Gerina Mendoza, UTEP (one-over 217)--McVeigh wins in a playoff on the first hole with a 15-foot birdie__

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