Weekly top 5: Oregon returning to top form

Oregon senior Daniel Miernicki

Oregon senior Daniel Miernicki

1.) Oregon is Back: In Casey Martin’s tenure at Oregon, the Ducks have risen quickly. Martin’s teams often have competed at the elite level and just two years ago the Ducks mentioned as a favorite heading to The Honors Course for the 2010 NCAA Championship. Oregon’s hopes of an NCAA Championship ended in the semifinals that year, but there was a lot to look forward to. Oregon would return all five players the next season and hopes were high.

However, after a very slow start (Oregon finished eighth, ninth 12th, seventh and sixth during the fall campaign), the only talk surrounding Oregon was the if they would be on the right side of the .500 rule. Oregon had a 30-37 head-to-head record, and Martin’s team did bounce back in the spring, nearly winning the Pac-10 Conference before falling short of the NCAA Championship.

This season appears to be more like two years ago, when Oregon won five times – a school record. Oregon has won its first two starts - St. Mary’s Invitational and the The Prestige at PGA West - and is ranked No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. The Ducks have three experienced players - Eugene Wong, Andrew Vijarro and Daniel Miernicki – who were part of the five-win season and would not surprise many if they continue to win tournaments.

2.) Texas at the Top: Twice this season Texas has displayed a final-round armor that might be tough to dent as the season continues. Not only is Texas ranked No. 1 in the most recent Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, but individually, Dylan Frittelli is the top-ranked player. Freshman standout Jordan Spieth is ranked No. 3.

Texas rallied in the final round to win the Jack Nicklaus Invitational hosted at Murfield Village Golf Club. Head coach John Fields’ talented and deep squad also won its previous start, the Jerry Pate Intercollegiate two weeks ago. Texas won the Jerry Pate by 20 shots and won the Jack Nicklaus by 16 shots.

The trick for Fields this year? Figuring out which five players to put in the lineup.

3.) UCF to the Big Ten? With all of the conference re-alignment talk, maybe the UCF golf programs should consider joining the Big Ten.

To start the fall season, UCF men’s team traveled north to to play in the Northern Intercollegiate at Rich Harvest Farms in Illinois. The Golden Knights won comfortably, beating runner-up Tulsa by 10 and defeating several other Big Ten teams. This past week it was the women doing the same, traveling north to French Lick, Ind., to compete in the Lady Northern. The women’s squad posted a final-round 5-over 289 to beat second-round leader Ohio State by 20 shots in the final round and win the tournament.

I would bet both UCF golf teams would be comfortable with a postseason assignment in that part of the country. 

4.) Great round: The second annual Golfweek Fall Invitational concluded at Raven Golf Club at Sandestin in Destin, Fla., with sophomore Noah Ratner leading Guilford College to the team title. Ratner won the individual title by three shots after recording rounds of 66-69-69.

Ratner’s 66 was one of the better rounds we might see this year in college golf. He beat the scoring average that day by 11.72 shots - that does not happen very often at any level. The victory was his second in a row and has propelled him to the top of Division III rankings and helped his school to the top of the team rankings.

5.) Buzzing again: A few weeks ago I watched Bruce Heppler’s Georgia Tech squad struggle at the Golfweek Conference Challenge. In almost every event in which the Yellow Jackets participate, they are considered a favorite to win. In Iowa, however, that would not be the case. Georgia Tech had trouble posting a third and fourth score and placed eighth in the 15-team field.

It likely was one of those moments in a season – moment that could define the direction in which a team goes. The good news for Heppler is it appears to have sent them in the right direction. Georgia Tech went on to post a 17-shot win at the Brickyard Collegiate Championship with three players placing inside the top 10. Georgia Tech likely will be listed as a favorite in most events they will play.

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