News & ToursMarch 6, 2008

This week's syllabus: March 6-12

__THE FAB FIVE

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

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  1. Alabama (Last week: 1)

First team with two wins in the spring after last weekend's victory in Puerto Rico. Matthew Swan becomes the third different Crimson Tide player to win an individual title. This is as close to separation as we've seen between any of the top men's teams since September.

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

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  1. Tennessee (4)

First-round 318 at USC Intercollegiate killed the Vols chances of winning, yet second-round and third-round scores of 286 and 285 at North Ranch CC got them as impressive a second-place finish (only four back of host USC) as you could have asked for. Charles Ford's final-round 65 was the lowest score of the tournament by two shots and pretty sweet considering he opened 82-80.

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

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  1. USC (Not ranked)

There's a whole lot of talent with the Trojans, who finally cracked the win column with their victory at the USC Intercollegiate. Consider that the guy who shot a 61 at Bel-Air in qualifying (Tom Glissmeyer) finished T-42, while the guy who missed out on making the starting five (Tim Sluiter) went on to win the tournament individually with a five-over 218.

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

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  1. Charlotte (3)

OK, 49ers ... this weekend's Las Vegas tournament is the chance to show that the tie for fifth-place finish at the John Hayt was a fluke and that you're still the solid squad that won four fall events, including the Ping/Golfweek Preview. Don't blow it!

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

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  1. Georgia (5)

Rebounded quite well in the second and third rounds at Puerto Rico (286-281) to grab a back-door third-place finish, seven back of victorious Alabama. Still, Georgia needs to show up all 54 holes if the team expects to win in Las Vegas.

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

__WOMEN

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  1. Duke (1)

Dan Brooks says his Blue Devils learned a lot about handling strong winds and managing elevation changes while finishing second at the Arizona Wildcat--skills that are going to be needed come May and the NCAA Championship in Albuquerque.

Next event: UCF Challenge Red Tail GC, Sorrento, Fla., March 9-11

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  1. UCLA (2)

This weekend's coming trip to Florida is the first and only time the Bruins will play in the Eastern Time Zone all season. Meanwhile, the Bruins still lead the country in par-4 scoring (4.15).

Next event: UCF Challenge Red Tail GC, Sorrento, Fla., March 9-11

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  1. USC (3)

Similarly, the Orlando tournament this week is the lone time the Trojans reach the ETZ. Andrea Gaston's group has a final-round individual player stroke average (73.97) that's more than a half stroke lower than the first round (74.5) and hits fairways at an 80.7 percent rate.

Next event: UCF Challenge Red Tail GC, Sorrento, Fla., March 9-11

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  1. Florida (4)

Coach Jill Briles-Hinton must not know what to do with herself and her new found crisis-management skills ... she hasn't had a player leave the team in almost six weeks now!

Next event: UCF Challenge, Red Tail GC, Sorrento, Fla., March 9-11

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  1. Oklahoma State (5)

OK ... we gave the Cowgirls a week to celebrate a very, very good win in Arizona. The question now though is can you do it, again against another stacked field this week in Florida, or will the inconsistency we saw from OSU last season return?

Next event: UCF Challenge, Red Tail GC, Sorrento, Fla., March 9-11


STAT OF THE WEEK

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Number of times that Arkansas senior Stacy Lewis and Duke junior Amanda Blumenherst have played in the same pairing in a college event. The two are the clear leaders in the running for women's player of the year (see my story in this week's Golf World) and have been among college golf's standouts for the past few seasons but amazingly they haven't teed it up in the same threesome during their careers.

"We were playing in the Curtis Cup practice round together [in January] and that was one time I've actually ever played with her," recalled Blumenherst last week of when the two teamed in a alternate-shot match at Lake Nona.

Arkansas and Duke are both in the same field at three events in the next month: this week's UCF Challenge, the Liz Murphey Collegiate (March 21-23) and the Bryan National Collegiate (March 28-30). The two schools are not paired together in Monday's opening round at the UCF Challenge (Duke is with UCLA and Central Florida; Arkansas is with Southern California and Florida), but Lewis, for one, hopes to get to play head-to-head with her friend and competitor at some point soon.

"It's exciting," Lewis said. "I wish we get to play together more."




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WHAT TO WATCH FOR__

  • The medalist at this week's UCF Challenge once again gets a pretty amazing perk: a sponsor's exemption into the LPGA Tour event. This year, the winner gets a spot into the Ginn Tribute Hosted By Annika, which is played May 29-June 1, a week after the NCAA Championship. The date of the exemption is much more favorable than last year, which fell between regionals and nationals, but still could prove problematic for anyone already picked to play in the Curtis Cup, which is that same weekend over in Scotland.

Scheduling issues aside, getting an exemption for the winner of this college tournament into an LPGA event is a fantastic way to showcase college golf and add some spice to the event. I don't think it's the reason the field is killer for a second straight year (eight of the top-10 teams in the country are playing), but it doesn't hurt.

  • Just as coach Allen Terrell has done with the Coastal Carolina men's program, his work to make this week's General Jim Hackler Championship, held at TPC Myrtle Beach, among the better events of the spring is starting to have traction. In the field are seven of the top 25 teams from the most recent Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll. That said, Terrell and the Chanticleers need to find a way to play well at home this week if they are to have any shot of getting an at-large bid to NCAA regionals. Among the top eight finishers at last year's NCAA Championship, fifth-place Coastal Carolina is the only one with a sub-.500 record (26-40-2) in 2007-08. If it stays that way, it will force the team to win the Big South Conference Championship in April or stay home this postseason.

It's part of the Catch 22 various mid-major program such as Coastal are facing: get a couple solid players (i.e. all-American Dustin Johnson), improve the program in the national rankings, advance to the NCAA Championship in 2005, 2006 and 2007, get into better and better tournaments but struggle to replace the All-Americans and suffer some T-11 finishes. (Same thing is going on at Georgia State this year.) No doubt both schools will replenish the talent in their lineups; their coaches are too good to let things slide for long. In the meantime, however, the growing pains are going to leave you hurting.

  • It will be curious to see what happens with the Texas men's team this weekend as they play two tournaments in five days. The Longhorns tee it up at the Southern Highlands Collegiate in Las Vegas this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then play in the Fresno Lexus Classic in Fresno, Calif., (without a practice round) on Monday (36 holes) and Tuesday. Currently, the team has a 46-40-2 record ... a good weekend obviously would help them lock up the ability to clinch an at-large berth to NCAA regionals but a little bad momentum and the Longhorns might create a pretty big hole they'll have to overcome to not get caught in the .500 rule.

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UPCOMING TOURNAMENTS

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Southern Highlands Collegiate

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

Southern Highlands CC

Las Vegas

March 7-9

Host: UNLV

Field: Air Force, Arizona, Arizona State, Charlotte, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Minnesota, Oklahoma State, Southern California, Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA, UNLV

Defending champion: UCLA (10-over 874) by three over Georgia; Lucas Lee, UCLA (three-under 213) by one over Kentucky's Alex Volpenhein

Skinny: A top-flight tournament with a solid field once again, although pre-.500 rule I'm not sure you would have seen Air Force and Hawaii as invitees. Expect to see a marquee player (USC's Jamie Lovemark, Florida's Billy Horschel, Oklahoma State's Rickie Fowler) to walk away with medalist honors

General Jim Hackler Championship

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

TPC Myrtle Beach

Murrells, S.C.

March 9-10

Host: Coastal Carolina

Field: Augusta State, Coastal Carolina, Duke, East Tennessee State, Florida State, Georgia Southern, Lamar, Louisville, UNC-Wilmington, North Carolina, North Florida, Northwestern, Pepperdine, Tulsa

Defending champion: Lamar (26-under 838) by 10 over Coastal Carolina; Rhys Davies, East Tennessee State (10-under 206) by one over Lamar's Dawie Van Der Walt

Skinny: Tournament looks pretty wide open with several teams starting to get on a roll. Why do I get the feeling the lone West Coast participant (Pepperdine) might actually be the favorite here?

Louisiana Classics

Oakbourne CC

Lafayette, La.

March 10-11

Host: Louisiana-Lafayette

Field: Arkansas State, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, Missouri-Kansas City, North Texas, Richmond, Sam Houston State, Southeastern Louisiana, SMU, Texas State

Defending champion: Southeastern Louisiana (13-under 851) by six over Lamar; Gary Woodland, Kansas (11-under 205) by three over Illinois' Patrick Nagle

Skinny: SMU won the event, now in its 23rd year, four straight times from 2002-05 and are the likely favorites this time around too ... although my guess is the defending champions will be in the hunt late as well.

Fresno State/Lexus Golf Classic

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

Fort Washington CC (Par 72, 6,729 yards)

Fresno, Calif.

March 10-11

Host: Fresno State

__Field:__Boise State, Cal, CSU Bakersfield,  CSU Northridge, Fresno State, Idaho, Kansas State, Long Beach State, Loyola Marymount, Nevada, Oregon, Pacific, Portland, Sacramento State, San Diego State, Santa Clara, TCU, Texas, Wyoming  __

Defending champion:__ San Diego State (15-under 849) by one over UC Irvine; Brian Edick, UC Irvine (seven-under 209) by two over UC Irvine's Jay Choe

Skinny: For a tournament that's bounced around on the calendar between the fall and spring, it certainly does have an impressive list of individual winners. Among them: Tom Watson (Stanford, 1969); Craig Stadler (USC, 1973 and 1974); Bobby Clampett (BYU, 1979-80); Phil Mickelson (Arizona State, 1989).

Callaway Golf Invitational

The Farms GC (Par 72, 6,911 yards)

Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

March 10-11

Host: San Diego

Field: Arkansas, Campbell, Colorado State, Charleston, Purdue, San Jose State, San Diego, St. Mary's (Calif.), UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, Texas-Arlington, Utah, Wichita State, Western Carolina

Defending champion: San Diego State (three-over 867) by seven over San Diego; Louis Bishop, UC Davis (seven-under 209) by one over San Diego State's Jamie Puterbaugh

Skinny: Got to believe a California school will come out on top here.

Cleveland Golf Palmetto Invitational

Palmetto GC (Par 70, 6,758 yards)

Aiken, S.C.

March 10-11

Host: USC-Aiken

__FIeld:__Akron, Charleston Southern, Chattanooga, Elon, Francis Marion, Furman, Jacksonville State, Marshall, Nebraska, UNC Greensboro, Penn State, Presbyterian, Rhode Island, Virginia Tech, USC Aiken

Defending champion: USC-Aiken (21-over 861) by six over Virginia Tech; Roberto Diaz, USC-Aiken (two-under 208) by two over East Carolina's Andre Thorsen

__Skinny:__Three teams that sort of surprised in the fall--Chattanooga, Penn State and Virginia Tech--have a chance to pick up a few more wins. For the Nittany Lions, it's the first time out this spring. For the Mocs and Hokies, it's an opportunity to gets themselves back up after an early spring stumble.



__WOMEN

Texas A&M Mo-Morial Invitational__

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

The Traditions Club

Bryan, Texas

March 7-9

Host: Texas A&M

Field: Baylor, Denver, Iowa State, Kent State, Michigan State, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Northwestern, Princeton, SMU, TCU, Texas A&M, Tulsa, UTEP

Defending champion: Arizona State (29-over 893) by 11 over Southern California; Paola Moreno, Southern California (even-par 216) by two over Arizona State's Anna Nordqvist

Skinny: The tournament enters its 15th year with the host Aggies under new coach Trelle McCombs, coming off their best finish of the 2007-08 season, a second-place showing at the Central District. If anybody is to take A&M as a legitimate threat to win a third-straight Big 12 title, solid showing here would be helpful.

Rio Verde Invitational

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

Quail Run course at Rio Verde CC

Rio Verde, Ariz.

March 7-9

Host: Western Michigan

Field: Arkansas-Little Rock, Ball State, Bowling Green State, Bradley, Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, Illinois State, Minnesota, Missouri State, Northern Arizona, Notre Dame, Ohio, Southern Illinois, Texas Tech, Toledo, Western Michigan, Wisconsin, Xavier

Defending champion: Arkansas-Little Rock (25-over 889) by one over Baylor; Allison Martin, Baylor (four-under 212) by three over Arkansas-Little Rock's Sara Wikstrom

Skinny: This is a great chance for some Midwest schools to get out of the snow and cold weather and try to get their springs kick-started. Notre Dame on paper is the class of the field.

UCF Challenge

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

Red Tail GC

Sorrento, Fla.

March 9-11

Host: Central Florida

__Field:__Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Central Florida, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Furman, Georgia, LSU, New Mexico, Oklahoma State, Pepperdine, Purdue, Southern California, Tennessee, UCLA, Vanderbilt

Defending champion: Duke (four-under 860) by 26 over Georgia; Amanda Blumenherst, Duke (11-under 205) by 12 over Vanderbilt's Jacqui Concolino

__Skinny:__The second playing of the event includes arguably the best field of any tournament this spring, with eight of the top-10 in the latest Golf World/NGCA coaches' poll (only missing schools are No. 4 Arizona State and No. 7 Arizona) and 14 of the top 25. Additionally, 14 of the top 18 players in the latest Golfstat Cup rankings are slated to be in the field.

Pinehurst Challenge

Pinehurst No. 8

Pinehurst, N.C.

March 9-11

Host: College of Charleston

__Field:__Augusta State, Boise State, Bucknell, Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, Charleston, East Carolina, East Tennessee State, Georgia State, Jacksonville State, James Madison, Marshall, Maryland, Memphis, Oregon State, Penn State, South Florida, Stetson, UT-Chattanooga, Texas State, UNC Greensboro, Western Carolina

Defending champion: East Carolina and N.C. State (37-over 613) with ECU declared winner based on fifth-player scoring; Lene Krog, East Carolina and__Sara Wikstrom__, Arkansas-Little Rock (five-over 149)

Skinny: East Carolina looks to continue its magic 2007-08 run, which currently stands at five wins in six starts.

Peggy Kirk Bell Invitational

Tuscawilla CC

West Springs, Fla.

March 10-11

Host: Rollins

Defending champion: Rollins (46-over 910) by 13 over Methodist; Maria Garcia Austt, Nova Southeastern (one-under 215) by six over Kentucky's Erica Still and Methodist's Katie Dick__ __

UNLV Spring Rebel Invitational

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

Boulder Creek GC (Par 72, 6,153 yards)

Boulder Creek, Nev.

March 10-12

Host: UNLV

__Field:__BYU, Campbell, Colorado, Colorado State, Eastern Washington, Fresno State, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas State, Long Beach State, Nebraska, New Mexico State, Oregon, Sacramento State, Texas Tech, UNLV, Washington, Washington State

Defending champion: BYU (17-under 847) by 10 over New Mexico; Jennifer Shipley, Fresno State and Kelly Nakashima, Idaho (11-over 205) with Shipley winning on the third playoff hole

__Skinny:__Yet another tournament where the host school could really, really, REALLY use a good showing to help boost their hopes of getting an NCAA regional bid. I know there have been a lot of odd circumstances for the Rebels this year, but only two top-10 finishes in six starts (and just one top-five) isn't enough to get the invite to the postseason.

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