News & ToursMarch 31, 2011

This Week's Syllabus: March 31-April 6

__FAB FIVE

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

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1. Oklahoma State (Last week: 1)

One more event without Peter Uihlein in the line-up for OSU. Heard he gave Mike McGraw some lame excuse about playing in another  tournament in Augusta instead … rhymes with Pasters. Considering the Cowboys record without the U.S. Amateur champion, I'm not sure he'll be missed (said with sarcasm).

Next event: Insperity Augusta State Invitational, Forest Hills GC, Augusta, Ga., April 2-3

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2. Alabama (3)

A career-best from medalist Cory Whitsett (-13/203) at the Linger Longer propels the Crimson Tide to its fifth team win of the season. Bud Cauley posts his third straight top-two finish. Oh, and another nice finish from Trey Mullinax (T-13) also bodes well as Jay Seawell looks figure out his line up for the post-season.

Next event: Insperity Augusta State Invitational, Forest Hills GC, Augusta, Ga., April 2-3

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3. UCLA (2)

The Bruins are making the pilgrimage east to Augusta for the first time since winning the event in 2008. A fifth and T-2 finish there in 2006 and 2004 suggests jet lag hasn't been a problem for the team. New line up includes Patrick Cantlay,Gregor Main,Alex Kim,Pontus Widegren and Anton Arboleda with Pedro Figueiredo healthy but playing as an individual.

Next event: Insperity Augusta State Invitational, Forest Hills GC, Augusta, Ga., April 2-3

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4. LSU (NR)

Quietly the Tigers are looking like a pretty good sleeper pick for the SEC title if not more. A repeat victory at the Hootie at Bulls Bay is the Tigers third win of the 2010-11 season while having only won once this spring, Chuck Winstead's squad hasn't finished worse than fourth in five starts. You've got to think they continue that streak with their home event coming up.

Next event: LSU Invitational, University Club, Baton Rouge, La., April 2-3

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5. Augusta State (NR)

No one is quicker to point out how long it has been since a team repeated as NCAA champs than Jaguar coach Josh Gregory. It's not because his ego thinks that his team is the one to end the 26-year drought; it's because it's arguably the best motivational tool he's got.

Next event: Insperity Augusta State Invitational, Forest Hills GC, Augusta, Ga., April 2-3

WOMEN

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1. USC (Last week: 1)

I try to stay detached from the players that I cover, but I'm going to miss Lizette Salas when she is done with school this spring. Besides having had a terrific college career, she's a really neat person. I'll be curious to see how she handles the next few weeks given the emotions that come with closing out your senior season.

Next event: Ping/ASU Invitational, Karsten GC, Tempe, Ariz., April 1-3

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2. Purdue (2)

The Boilermakers lead the country in par-5 scoring (4.87) and are third in subpar strokes per round (2.82). That suggests to me a long, difficult course might suit this squad nicely, oh like say a place they might host a NCAA Championship.

Next event: Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic, University of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga., April 1-3

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3. UCLA (3)

The Bruins might feel like Karsten GC is a home away from home, having won the Ping/ASU event there in 2004, 2006, 2010 and a share of the title in 2005. They've also recorded top-three finishes in 2007 and 2008.

Next event: Ping/ASU Invitational, Karsten GC, Tempe, Ariz., April 1-3

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4. Alabama (4)

Interesting to see how having a couple off weeks will impact the squad as it heads to Athens. Hard to bet against a Mic Potter lead team, particularly one with the talent that this year's edition has. The Liz Murphey format (see below) also will be to the Crimson Tide's advantage.

Next event: Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic, University of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga., April 1-3

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5. California (5)

The Bears have had time to forget about the stumble at Rancho Bernardo Inn, where they finished 13th as a team with no one finishing inside the top 50 individually. My guess is that there was no permanent damage done; too many good memories from the previous two starts, both wins.

Next event: Ping/ASU Invitational, Karsten GC, Tempe, Ariz., April 1-3

STAT OF THE WEEK

0

The number of rounds this spring in which the Middle Tennessee State men's team has not been in the lead after the conclusion of play. The Blue Raiders have played in three events, leading all nine rounds of competition en route to wins at Mobile Bay, USF and the Bulldog Invitational. Their next tournament is the Reunion Intercollegiate April 3-5 in Mississippi.

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RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK__

I don't care that the Baltimore Orioles aren't going to win the AL East this year, there is still something about opening day and baseball that's exciting.

__WHAT TO WATCH FOR

__* Kelley Hester admits this week's Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic is serving as a guinea pig of sorts and isn't 100 percent sure how things will work out, but she's excited about trying something new. The Georgia women's coach has tweaked the format of the event, with all five golfers for each school playing as a group and a team's score being determined by the low four scores for each hole rather than the low four scores for each round.

Hester says she didn't hear any hesitation from coaches of schools competing in the event when she explained to them earlier in the season what she wanted to try. After a conversation with Puggy Blackmon, director of golf at South Carolina, about how the format had been used on occasion at men's events but never could he recall at a women's tournament, Hester figured it was worth exploring to see how things might play out. "I figured why not give it a try," Hester said. "If it's something people don't enjoy, then we won't do it again, but lets check it out."

Hester thinks there could be several benefits with the format. Spectators who want to want a particular team can now see all five golfers on that squad playing at once. Similarly, a coach can actually work with his/her entire squad during the round. "It's more how coaches in other sports work, where they can interact with all their players," Hester said. "In golf, you don't have that opportunity, really."

Hester also anticipates that team scores might be lower as golfers who get off to a bad start will still have something to play for on each hole rather than thinking that their score is likely going to be one that's dropped after they get off the course. Says Hester: "I think the players are going to feel like they can contribute more than they might ordinarily."

Give Hester credit for giving the idea a shot, particularly with a field that includes 11 of the top 25 teams in the latest Golf World/NGCA coaches' poll. Some coaches might have said no way considering all the standout teams that will be part of the experiment. Who knows if the format will be to people's liking but there doesn't seem to be much harm in trying.

  • The Big Ten announced earlier this week that it would hold the men's and women's conference championships simultaneous at French Lick (Ind.) Resort for three years starting in 2012. No disrespect to the resort, which I hear is actually quite nice, but I think it's a shame that the tournament is being moved away from being contested at on-campus courses. Big Ten schools have a collection of historic, interesting layouts that rival any conference. To not use these facilities to host its biggest event seems to be a waste. Granted a neutral site might make the competition a big more fair, but rotating the championship allowed all schools to have the home-course advantage an equal number of times. My guess is the economics of holding the championships together at one site, and locking that in for three years, helped drive the decision. To bad it comes at the expense of history.

  • If you haven't read it, check out Jill Painter's story in the Los Angeles Daily News about what the UCLA golf teams are trying to do with an old VA course in the city. The idea is to renovate the course so it can be used as a practice facility Bruins that would give them a place of their own close to campus, something the teams haven't had the luxury of despite having access to many top courses in the L.A. area. However, men's coach Derek Freeman sees this as an opportunity to also have his team give back by helping out with the local veterans group.

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TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS

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LSU Invitational

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

University Club, Baton Rouge, La.

April 2-3

Host: LSU

Field: Boston College, Centenary, Chattanooga, Iowa, Iowa State, LSU, Louisiana-Lafayette, Michigan, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Penn State, VCU

Skinny: LSU resumes hosting a spring tournament having held the LSU National Invitational from 1961-92 and the CC of Louisiana Collegiate from 1993-2003.

__Insperity Augusta State Invitational

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

Forest HIlls CC, Augusta, Ga.

April 2-3

Host: Augusta State

Field: Alabama, Augusta State, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Houston, Illinois, Lamar, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, USC-Aiken, Tennessee, UCLA, Virginia Tech, Washington

Defending champion: Augusta State (-47/817) by 16 strokes over South Carolina; Augusta State's Henrik Norlander (-15/201) by two strokes over Augusta State's Patrick Reed

Skinny: Top-heavy field includes three of the top five teams in the latest Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll, plus the defending NCAA champions and host Jaguars. Could this prove to be a better tournament than the pro one in town later in the week?

__The BancorpSouth Intercollegiate

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

Reunion G&CC, Madison, Miss.

April 4-5

Host: Mississippi

__Field:__Central Arkansas, Jackson State, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Rice, South Alabama, Southeastern Louisiana, Southern Mississippi, UAB, UCF, UNC Greensboro, Vanderbilt

Defending champion: North Florida (-18/846) by one stroke over Florida; Florida's Tyson Alexander (-11/205) by one stroke over Florida's Tim McKenney

__Skinny:__Fourth-year tourney is guaranteed its fourth different champion with past winners Chattanooga, LSU and North Florida not in the field.

__Morris Williams Intercollegiate

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

University of Texas GC, Austin, Texas

April 4-5

Host: Texas

Field: Arkansas, Denver, Kent State, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Pepperdine, SMU, Stanford, TCU, Texas, UT-Arlington, UT-San Antonio, Texas Tech, Tulsa

Defending champion: Georgia (+26/878) by one stroke over Texas; Georgia's Harris English (-1/212) by five strokes over Texas A&M's Andrea Pavan and Texas Tech's Nils Floren

Skinny: Fantastic history with the tournament, with past winners including Ben Crenshaw (Texas, 1972 and 1973),  Payne Stewart (SMU, 1979), Fred Couples (Houston, 1980) Bob Estes, (Texas, 1988), Phil Mickelson (Arizona State, 1991), Justin Leonard (Texas, 1993) and Hunter Mahan (Oklahoma State, 2003).

__Wyoming Cowboy Classic

__Talking Stick (North), Scottsdale, Ariz.

April 4-5

Host: Wyoming

Field: Air Force, Baylor, Colorado, Colorado State, Gonzaga, Idaho, Kansas, Kansas State, Nevada, Oregon State, San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Clara, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, Utah, Utah State, Wichita State, Wyoming

Defending champion: CSU-Northridge (+1/841) by nine strokes over San Diego; San Diego's Gunner Wiebe (-7/203) by two strokes over CSU-Northridge's Jeff Freund

Skinny: UC Davis was the three-time defending champion entering last year's tournament, but did not compete in the event. The school shot a aggregate 22 under par for the 2007-09 editions of the tournament.

__WOMEN

Rebel Intercollegiate

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

Ole Miss GC, Oxford, Miss.

April 1-3

Host: Mississippi

Field: Coastal Carolina, East Tennessee State, Kansas, Maryland, Memphis, Michigan, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri, Murray State, Rollins, SMU, South Florida, Southern Mississippi, Tennessee, Tulane, Tulsa, UCF

Defending champion: Tulane (+13/877) by three strokes over Texas A&M; Missouri's Julia Potter (-8/208) by six strokes over Mississippi's Haley Sanders and Texas A&M's Julia Boland

Skinny: The host Rebels hope any home-course advantage can help them turn the 2010-11 campaign around after having started the season with three top-five finishes only to finish outside the top 10 in their last four starts.

__Ping/ASU Invitational

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

Karsten GC, Tempe, Ariz.

April 1-3

Host: Arizona State

Field: Arizona, Arizona State, California, Denver, New Mexico, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Pepperdine, San Diego State, Stanford, Texas, TCU, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Washington, Washington State

Defending champion: UCLA (-8/856) by one stroke over Arizona State; UCLA's Stephanie Kono (-9/207) by one stroke over USC's Jennifer Song

Skinny: Call it a dry-run for the Pac-10 Championship, with nine of the 10 conference schools in attendance (only Oregon is MIA) two weeks before returning to Tempe to actually compete for the conference title. Arizona State has claimed the title 17 times in the previous 34 editions of the event.

__Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic

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

University of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga.

April 1-3

Host: Georgia

Field: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Chattanooga, Duke, Florida State, Florida, Furman, Georgia, Georgia State, Kennesaw State, Kent State, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Purdue, South Carolina, Virginia, Wake Forest

Defending champion: Duke (+25/889) by 21 strokes over Alabama; Duke's Lindy Duncan (-3/213) by eight strokes over Alabama's Jennifer Kirby and Duke's Stacey Kim

Skinny: Stacked field at the course that will host the 2013 NCAA Championship.

__UNCW Lady Seahawk Classic

__River Landing CC, Wallace, N.C.

April 4-5

Host: UNC Wilmington

Field: East Carolina, Elon, Gardner-Webb, James Madison, Longwood, Old Dominion, Siena, UNC Greensboro, UNC Wilmington, William & Mary

Defending champion: UNC Wilmington (+51/915) by 13 strokes over Penn; UNC Wilmington's Carmen Perez-Narbon (-1/215) by nine strokes over Jacksonville State's Lucia Fernandez

__Skinny:__It's been a rough year for the host Seahawks, with only one finish better than ninth place. Local event might help turn things around.

__Wyoming Cowgirl Classic

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

Ocotillo Golf Resort, Chandler, Ariz.

April 4-5

Host: Wyoming

Field: Boise State, BYU, Cal Poly, Eastern Michigan, Idaho State, Louisiana Monroe, Montana, Montana State, New Mexico State, Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado, Portland State, Sacramento State, Santa Clara, Seattle, South Dakota State, Southern Utah, UC Riverside, UTEP, Utah Valley, Weber State, Wyoming, Xavier

Defending champion: UTEP (+19/883) by 14 strokes over Colorado State and Northern Arizona; Northern Arizona's Stephanie Kim (E/216) by two strokes over Portland State's Britney Yada

__Skinny:__Should be Northern Arizona's tournament to win ... the Lumberjacks have won the event in odd numbered years since its inception in 2007.

__Indiana Invitational

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

Otter Creek GC, Columbus, Ind.

April 4-5

Host: Indiana

Field: Akron, Ball State, Bradley, Eastern Michigan, Evansville, Illinois, Illinois State, Indiana, IUPUI, Kansas State, Louisville, Michigan, Oakland, Western Michigan, Wisconsin

__Defending champion:Indiana (+22/886) by six strokes over Colorado; Illinois' Hailey Koschmann (-2/214) by one stroke over Indiana's Laura Nochta

Skinny: A bit of a Midwestern battle royale as schools get in some last minute preparation for their conference championships.

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__Pacific Coast Intercollegiate

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

Half Moon Bay GC, Half Moon Bay, Calif.

April 4-5

Host: UC Davis/Oregon

Field: Colorado, Colorado State, Fresno State, Long Beach State, Northwestern, Oregon, San Francisco, San Jose State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, UC Davis, UNLV

Defending champion: New event

Skinny: The lone Pac-10 team not at the Ping ASU event has a decent excuse; Oregon is co-hosting this first-year event that has a nice field and will be played at a neat resort.

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