OOLTEWAH, Tenn. – Now that stroke play is over – with only a three-way playoff left to decide the final match-play bracket set-up – here are five observations from the first half of this year’s national championship.
- Who was the medalist? Once again this year’s national championship couldn’t have done a better job putting the individual race on the back burner. It was even less drama than last year when Matt Hill won on the ninth hole of Inverness. Scott Langley put on a clinic at The Honors course, but because all eyes are on the top part of the team leaderboard, the individual leaderboard became an after thought.
- The course was too easy. The length was perfect, and the weather conditions were too good to be true. The greens, on the other hand, were just too easy. It is no one’s fault that the rain this town saw over the past week made the greens slower and softer than expected. However, as Round 3 wore on, the greens got quicker and the putting became more difficult. In match play no one will count their total strokes, but I will guarantee that bogeys will win some holes in matches.
- The Pac-10 is overrated. With five teams ranked in the top 10, I thought the match play portion of the championship would feature at least four teams from the Pac-10. Instead, we have two already in, and the possibility of a third. Oregon will play Washington in the first round and Oklahoma State may play Stanford or Arizona State. UCLA and USC weren’t ever really in contention to crack the top eight. Plus, Stanford and Arizona State had higher expectations than possibly just getting in as the No. 8 seed. I’m starting to think the Big 12 doesn’t get enough credit.
- No SEC teams in SEC Country. Florida finished ninth, LSU finished 24th and fan-favorite Tennessee finished T-25. Something just doesn’t seem right when you look at the leaderboard and only find three SEC teams on the entire board. No SEC team will be in the match play, and that just adds to what has been a disappointing down year for what was considered the best conference in the country just a couple of years ago.
- No fan support. This week just feels like a really good tournament with a really good field on a really good golf course. The Honors Course truly is a championship golf course. The teams that are here are, for the most part, the best in the country. There are parents here, but it just doesn’t feel like a championship. There has been no buzz to create a championship-like atmosphere. Instead, it just feels like a really good tournament lacking fan and local support.