News & ToursMarch 20, 2009

This week's syllabus: March 20-26

__FAB FIVE

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

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1. Georgia (Last week's syllabus: 1)

The Bulldogs still posted a third-place finish in Las Vegas last week despite a opening-round 303 that essential cost them any real chance of a win. Anybody else taking note that Brian Harman has top-10 finishes in his two spring starts? That can only bode well for UGa.

Next event: Linger Longer Invitational, Reynolds Landing, Greensboro, Ga., March 20-21

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2. Oklahoma State (3)

Which Cowboy team really resides in Stillwater? The one that shot the 18-under 270 (while Rickie Fowler shot an 80 no less!!) in the second round of the Southern Highlands Collegiate or the one that sandwiched that number with a 291 and 295 in the first and third rounds? I'm leaning toward the former but we'll see this weekend in Georgia.

Next event: Linger Longer Invitational, Reynolds Landing, Greensboro, Ga., March 20-21

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I'd make the Cardinal my clear favorite at the Match Play this week if not for the fact that they've been off for a month. That said, I still think they're the ones to watch at The Farms.

Next event: Callaway Match Play Championship, The Farms GC, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., March 22-24

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4. USC (4)

Fifth-place showing against a stacked field in Las Vegas without Jamie (Hoop Dreams) Lovemark was a good sign that the team at least hasn't lost a lot of confidence without the 2007 NCAA champ in the line-up. Still, I'm sure they'd like to see him back and healthy.

Next event: Morris Williams Intercollegiate, University of Texas GC, Austin, Texas, March 30-31

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5. Clemson (5)

Conversely, seventh-place finish in Las Vegas probably was a disappointment for the Tigers, who then had to watch their hoops team lose to Michigan in the first round of the NCAA basketball tourney. (Sorry, had to get a plug in for the Wolverines.)

Next event: Hootie at Bulls Bay, Bulls Bay GC, Awendaw, S.C., March 29-31

__WOMEN

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1. UCLA (1)

The biggest question I've got a for a team with five victories in its first seven tournaments is whether it's peaking too early. You don't get that impression with the Bruins, though, because arguably their best player (Tiffany Joh) actually isn't playing all that great. Scary, but there's still room to improve in Westwood.

Next event: Ping/ASU Invitational, Karsten Course at ASU, Tempe, Ariz., April 3-5

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2. Arizona State (2)

The Sun Devils are playing without their Pac-10 pals when they tee it up in Texas. If they play they way they're capable of, they could make the tournament a little ugly.

Next event: Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational, University of Texas GC, Austin, Texas, March 20-22

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I get the feeling that a couple weeks off might be good for the Trojans, who looked like they're getting closer to having everything starting to click but aren't there just yet.

Next event: Ping/ASU Invitational, Karsten Course at ASU, Tempe, Ariz., April 3-5

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Except for living in fear that any day one of the five Cowgirls might get hurt (a la Duke), you've got to be kind of excited for this group and their prospects in the next couple of weeks. No one really expects them to knock off this year's West Coast wonders, so they have nothing really to lose.

Next event: Liz Murphey Collegiate, University of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga., March 27-29

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5. Virginia (NR)

Very nice victory at the LSU Classic, as the Cavaliers post a school-record eight-under 856 total. All I know is the ACC Championship is shaping up to be the most exciting conference tourney of them all this spring.

Next event: Liz Murphey Collegiate, University of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga., March 27-29

__STAT OF THE WEEK

80.4__

Stroke average of Duke junior Alison Whitaker in the five rounds she has actually played this spring.

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I wrote a feature about the Duke women's roller-coaster year in this week's issue of Golf World. It goes over all the odd various problems that the Blue Devils have had to deal with this season (Dan Brooks' health scare, Mina Harigae's departure, Whitaker's bad back, Amanda Blumenherst's so-so season). You can make an argument that the Blumenherst struggles are actually the most pressing current concern for Duke, but I truly feel that come the post-season we're going to see the woman who has won three straight national player of the year awards perform at her best. It's the Whitaker injury, then in my opinion, that most jeopardizes Duke's streak of 13 straight ACC titles.

In reporting the story, what I couldn't figure out was why Brooks didn't just keep Whitaker at home one tournament and simply play with four players. Essentially they're playing with four anyways because when Whitaker has played this spring, she has the aforementioned scoring average, with not one round better than a 77. She has only counted twice for Duke's team total.  In hanging out with her and the team at the UCF Challenge a couple weeks ago, despite her insistence that she was getting better, there wasn't really any evidence to back that up. Why not let her rest at home and hopefully come back stronger come the ACC Championship? Just a thought.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

  • You don't ever not want to win a golf tournament, but the fact that the Georgia men did not bring home the title at the Southern Highlands Collegiate last weekend was probably a good thing for coach Chris Haack's team. The Bulldogs looked so strong in their win at Isleworth to close the fall, then picked up right where they left off with a nice victory at Puerto Rico to start the spring. Another victory might have actually created a situation where the country's top-ranked school might have started getting too confident with the post-season approaching. This all sounds a bit cliche, but I've seen a few programs in recent years start to look a bit invincible in the spring only to get their comeuppance in May and June (Georgia Tech, 2002; UCLA, 2004; Georgia, 2007). The hungrier Georgia is come SECs, regionals and nationals, the more likely the team will be to fulfill its promise.

  • I asked Arizona State women's coach Melissa Luellen the other day about how it appeared from afar that freshman Carlota Ciganda's transition to the college game has gone as smoothly as anyone could have expected, what with the 18-year-old Spaniard posting a 72.33 average in three starts with no finish worse than T-14. Her response was interesting:

"I mean, I don't want this to sound caliver but Carlota hasn't even played good yet. We're just kind of waiting for her to bust out. She's just that good." Luellen noted how at the Northrup Grumman Regional Challenge, Ciganda was 0 for 9 in up and downs but still finished third. Then, at the last day of the Arizona Invitational in Mexico, she had four three-putts. "She's played a lot of good holes," Luellen continued, "but she hasn't played great golf yet. So it will be really fun when that shows up."

I mention all this because I think if not this weekend in Austin then at ASU's home event the first week of April, we're going to see Ciganda have that break-out tournament that Luellen is talking about. I'm not trying to put pressure on the young lady. I just think I agree with Luellen in that we haven't seen her absolutely best yet.

  • As I mention below, I don't think I'd hold my breath to see the Mercer men pull out the victory at the Linger Longer Invitational. Still, the host Bears have made some impressive inroads in the past few seasons. Two years ago the program was ranked No. 164 by Golfstat. Entering this weekend's play, Mercer stands at 86th, its highest ranking in school history. Any even more promising stat for second-year coach Andrew Tredway is that the freshmen class (__Devin Patel __and Andres Pumariega) rates No. 13 in the country this season. There are plenty of strong college programs in the state of Peach State (Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Georgia Southern) and the Bears are looking like they should be counted among them.

__TOURNAMENTS ON TAP

MEN

Desert Shootout__

Palm Valley GC, Goodyear, Ariz. (Par 71, 7,015 yards)

March 19-21

Host: Denver

Field: Air Force, Boise State, Cleveland State, Coastal Carolina, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri State, Nebraska, Northern Iowa, Southern Utah, Tulsa, Utah Valley

Defending champion: New event (Ron Moore Invitational, usually played in the spring, was held last September)

Skinny: OK, so I have one day's worth of results to help me, but I'm picking Denver to win.

__Linger Longer Invitational

__   (For live scoring, link here to Golfstat)

Reynolds Landing, Greensboro, Ga.

March 20-21

Host: Mercer/Kennesaw State

Field: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Eastern Michigan, Francis Marion, Georgia, Kennesaw State, Mercer, New Orleans, Oklahoma State, Purdue, St. John's, Wichita State, Winthrop

Defending champion: Mississippi (eight-under 856) by five strokes over Georgia; Memphis' Robbie Greenwell (eight-under 208) by three strokes over Georgia State's Joel Sjoholm

Skinny: With all due respect to the other 11 teams in this field, the tournament is really a two-team event between the Bulldogs and Cowboys.

__Chris Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational

__   (For live scoring, link here to Golfstat)

Forest Heights CC, Statesboro, Ga.

March 20-22

Host: Georgia Southern

Field: Auburn, Augusta State, Florida, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Iowa, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, North Carolina, N.C. State, North Florida, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Virginia

Defending champion: Alabama (15-under 849) by seven strokes over Florida; South Carolina's George Bryan IV (eight-under 208) by one stroke over Alabama's Michael Thompson

Skinny: Conversley, this year's Schenkel has some depth--five of the top 25 teams in the latest Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll.

__Callaway Match Play Championship

__   (For live scoring, link here to Golfstat)

The Farms GC, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

March 21-23

Host: GCAA

Field: Arizona State, Alabama, Charlotte, Chattanooga, Duke, Florida State, Indiana, Louisville, Middle Tennessee State, San Diego, San Diego State, Stanford, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, UC Irvine, UCLA

__Defending champion:__New event

__Skinny:__For those following head-to-head records and the ".500 rule", teams will gets wins and losses based on how they do in the 36-hole qualifying for the match-play brackets.

__National Invitational Tournament

__   (For live scoring, link here to Golfstat)

Omni Tucson National, Tucson, Ariz. (Par 72, 7,0094 yards)

March 22-23

Host: Arizona

Field: Arizona, Baylor, California, Colorado State, Houston, Kent State, New Mexico, SMU, TCU, Texas, Tulsa, UNLV, UTEP, Wyoming

Defending champion: TCU (10-under 854) by three strokes over Kent State; Tulsa's Nicholas Geyger (eight-under 208) in playoff over Houston's Ben Moser and Kent State's David Markle

Skinny: Beware the Runnin' Rebels ... they stole a win back home in Vegas at Southern Highlands and have a little bit of momentum.

__Mobile Bay Intercollegiate

__Magnolia Grove GC, Mobile, Ala.

March 22-24

Host: South Alabama

Field: Akron, Arkansas State, Hartford, Illinois State, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Mississippi State, New Mexico State, Richmond, USF, Southern Mississippi, UT Arlington, Toledo, Troy, Xavier

Defending champion: Louisville (nine-over 873) by four strokes over Chattanooga; Louisville's Adam Rainaud (one-under 215) by two strokes over South Alabama's Daniel Burns and Louisville's Derek Fathauer

__Skinny:__Event moved from Heron Lakes CC a year ago.

__

Oregon Duck Invitational

__   (For live scoring, link here to Golfstat)

Eugene CC, Eugene, Ore.

March 23-24

Host: Oregon

Field: UAB, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Oregon State, Pacific, Pepperdine, Portland, St. Mary's (Calif.), UC Davis, Utah, Washington, Washington State

Defending champion: San Diego State (nine-over 873) by 11 strokes over Oregon and Oregon State; Pacific's T.J. Bordeaux (six-under 210) by five strokes over Oregon's Joey Benedetti

Skinny: Tournament, in its 21st year, returns to Eugene CC after a year's absence. Host Ducks haven't won the event since 2002.

__WOMEN

Betsy Rawls Longhorn Intercollegiate__

(For live scoring, link here to Golfstat)

University of Texas GC, Austin, Texas

March 20-22

Host: Texas

Field: Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, UCF, Chattanooga, Duke, Florida State, Furman, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Purdue, South Carolina, Texas, Texas A&M, Tulsa, Vanderbilt

Defending champion: New Mexico (47-over 623) by one over Florida; Arkansas' Stacy Lewis (seven-over 151) by one stroke over Florida's Jessica Yadloczky

Skinny: UT hosted the tournament for the first time in 1974 and renamed it to honor Rawls in 1977. Four top-15 schools in the most recent Golf World/NGCA coaches' poll are in the field.

__Oregon Duck Invitational

__Shadow Hills CC, Junction City, Ore.

March 23-24

Host: Oregon

Field: Illinois, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Oregon State, Portland, Portland State, San Francisco, UC Davis, UC Riverside, Washington State, Wisconsin

Defending champion: Oregon (36-over 900) by four strokes over UC Davis; Oregon's Kendra Little (two-under 214) by four strokes over Washington State's Amy Eneroth

Skinny: Last time the event was played at Shadow Hills (2007), San Francisco prevailed by three strokes over Washington State. This is its 15th season.

__Sacramento State Invitational

__Valley Hi CC, Sacramento, Calif.

March 23-24__

Host:__ Sacramento State

Field: CSU Bakersfield, CSU Northridge, CSU San Marcos, Chico State, Montana State, North Dakota, Sacramento State, Santa Clara, UC Davis

Defending champion: Denver (12-over 876) by 24 strokes over Oregon; Washington State's Amy Eneroth (even-par 216) by one stroke over UC Davis' Alice Kim and Oregon's Cathryn Bristow

Skinny: Host Hornets have five top-10s in six tournament starts.

BYU Dixie Classic

(For live scoring, link here to Golfstat)

Entrada at Snow Canyon, St. George, Utah

March 24-25

Host: BYU

Field: BYU, Colorado State, Denver, Florida, Idaho State, New Mexico State, North Texas, Northern Arizona, San Diego State, Southern Utah, Texas State, Utah Valley, Washington, Weber State, Wyoming

Defending champion: BYU (25-over 889) by five strokes over Nebraska; BYU's Juli Wightman-Erekson (one-under 215) by seven strokes over three others

Skinny: Which doesn't belong and why? Only team from east of the Mississippi River in the field is Florida.

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