What if the Ping Preview was match play?
The 15 schools in the field at the Ping/Golfweek Preview this past week got a chance to get an early look at the Inverness Club, where men's college golf will crown a national champion next spring. Still, considering all the changes that are taking place with the format of NCAA Championship starting in 2009, we didn't get the same "early look" at how things could play out in Toledo when the NCAA title is really on the line. It got me thinking about some "what if" scenarios:
What if the 15 teams were the complete field for the NCAA Championship?
What if after 54 holes, they seeded the top eight teams and put them into a match-play bracket?
Who would then have won this "national championship?
Of course, to truly satisfying my curiosity would have required the teams play more than simply the three stroke-play rounds they contested this past week in Toledo. To have a little fun, however, I dug deeper into the results and created a mythical match-play bracket to see who might have come out the champion, applying the rules that have been finalized thus far on how they'll conduct the NCAA Championship next spring.
To play along, you need to accept a few flawed facts:
They played 54 holes this past week. Lets say this was the 54-hole stroke play qualifying we'll see at nationals. I'm taking the top eight teams at the end of the 54 holes and putting them into the match-play format we'll also see.
No. 1 seed:__ Oklahoma State (843)
No. 8 seed: Georgia Tech (874)
No. 2 seed:__ Tennessee (859)
No. 7 seed: Clemson (874)
tiebreaker for Clemson being No. 7 and Georgia Tech No. 8 was the fifth man scores for the three rounds
No. 3 seed: Georgia (861)
No. 6 seed: Arizona State (870)
No. 4 seed:__ USC (867)
No. 5 seed: Alabama (868)
To run the match-play portion without additional rounds of play, I had to "re-use" the results of the first round for the first round of match play, second round for the semifinals of match play, and third round for the final match. I matched the cards of players in the first round against each other as if they were facing off in a match (seeding of players is determined by how they finished in the 54 holes of stroke play) to get final scores and ultimately decide which teams moved on to the next round. Again, they were playing stroke play rather than match play, so there is a leap being made here, but indulge me.
Using the results of how a team's players finished individually after the 54-hole stroke-play qualifying here were the first round matches
Oklahoma State defeats Georgia Tech, 4-1
USC defeats Alabama, 4-1
UA's Bud Cauley df. Tim Sluiter, 2 and 1
Tennessee defeats Clemson, 3-2
Arizona State defeats Georgia, 2-2-1 (Sun Devils win on first hole of playoff)
(for playoff, all five players on each team play same hole and count all scores; I replayed how they all did on the first hole and Arizona State finished at even par while Georgia was one-over)
On to the semifinals ... using the second-round scores of the players to play out the matches, here are the results:
Oklahoma State defeats USC, 4-1
Tennessee defeats Arizona State, 3-2
And in the "national championship" match (using third-round results) ...
Oklahoma State defeats Tennessee, 3-2