Events to watch: Schenkel, Callaway Match Play
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Last night was the Wildman’s last night in Augusta, Ga., because today I am back in the rental and heading back to the 407.
My time in Augusta was great, but why look back when there’s so many great tournaments to look ahead to? Here are three tournaments to watch in the next few days:
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Date: March 18- March 20
Field: Auburn, Florida, Georgia Southern, Kentucky, LSU, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, North Carolina, North Carolina State, North Florida, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Virginia
The scoop: The Schenkel always is a great tournament with a strong field, and it is not disappointing this year. This field boasts seven teams ranked inside the top 40, including three of the SEC’s best in Florida (5), Auburn (9) and LSU (12). Last weekend it appeared that Virginia was going to leave the General Jim Hackler Championship with a win, but an amazing final round by defending NCAA champion Augusta State forced the Cavs to settle for runner-up. Also, it will be interesting to see how Notre Dame plays in this field because the Irish have not finished worse than second in any stroke-play tournament they have played this year. LSU will be looking to rebound from falling to Illinois at its own Louisiana Classics two weeks ago, and teams like UNF, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt will look to finish in the top 5 to help their ranking.
Wildman’s Pick: LSU. The Tigers have finished worse than third only once this season, and that was at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational in October. Also motivating the Tigers will be knowing they let a win at their last tournament slip away down the stretch in their own backyard. Andrew Loupe and John Peterson have been playing really well this spring, and I think the rest of the Tigers will have a strong week at a tournament they are familiar with. Keep an eye on the Tigers in this one.
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Battle at Rancho Bernardo
Date: March 20- March 22
Field: Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, California, Denver, Georgia, New Mexico, Oregon, Pepperdine, Purdue, San Diego State, USC, Texas, UC Davis, UCLA, UNLV
The scoop: This weekend the top-ranked teams take their show to San Diego. Once again a West Coast showdown of the top Pac-10 teams, and several others from the Pacific Time Zone, are playing in the same field. Teams from the Pac-10 will be heavy favorites in this one, as the field has top-ranked USC, second-ranked UCLA, fourth-ranked Cal, and Arizona State and Arizona, who are ranked ninth and 10th, respectably. That’s five teams from one conference ranked in the top 10 of the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings! Defending NCAA champion and seventh-ranked Purdue is in the field to try and squash the West Coast dominance. Every time we see a field like this, it gives us a sneak peak of what we can expect at nationals later in the year. The story to see in this one is if Oregon, or one of the other 11 other teams in the field, can beat the top-5 ranked teams from the Pac-10.
Wildman’s Pick: This just isn’t fair, as I can make a case for a handful of teams to win and why. However, a pick is needed, and I will go with the Bruins. Perhaps it just feels like it’s their turn in the rotation? USC, Cal, Arizona State and Purdue are all entering this tournament coming off a win in their last event – including UCLA. If the Bruins win, it would be their fourth victory on the year, and get them back to the top spot of the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. UCLA should be motivated to defeat the Trojans, who are not only their biggest rival, but are currently the top-ranked team in the country.
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Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship
Date: March 20-March 22
Opening Round Matches (# inside is seed not ranking): (1)UCLA vs. (16) South Carolina,
(8) Georgia vs. (9) Texas Tech, (4) Illinois vs. (13) Baylor, (5) Texas A&M vs. (12) Pacific, (3) Georgia Tech vs. (14) Washington State, (6) Iowa vs. (11) USC, (7) Texas vs. (10) Duke, (2) Alabama vs. (15) ETSU
The scoop: Did you really think that basketball was the only sport to have madness in the month of March? Here we go, a 16-team field where who knows what will happen. If one thing is for sure, it’s that upsets will happen and happen often. Lower seeds love this type of scenario because they have nothing to lose, where as the top seeds will be feeling the pressure. For top-ranked teams in this event, it is a great opportunity to practice the match-play format before heading to Karsten Creek. Coaches will have an opportunity to see how their team handles the format, and will give them time to adjust over the next two months. Either way, this tournament is always fun because of the format, but at times could have us wondering if the best team won when it is all said and done?
Wildman’s Pick: Alabama. When I filled out my bracket (which I did three times), I just kept coming back to ’Bama. The third-ranked team in the country has three players ranked in the top 35 of the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, along with Hunter Hamrick, who has struggled a bit this year and has a ranking of 93. UCLA and Alabama are the clear favorites in this tournament, but history tends to go with a team that’s not the top seed. If Alabama or UCLA don’t at least make it to the finals, then I may have a really big problem trying to figure out who can win a national championship at Karsten Creek other than Oklahoma State. The Crimson Tide have been playing well all spring, and I think if given the chance to take on UCLA, then fans won’t be disappointed for a showdown between the best team from the West taking on the best team from the East. And just for the record, Oklahoma State is the best team in the middle.