Led by junior Bud Cauley, Alabama won the Puerto Rico Classic on Tuesday. Here are five things you need to know:
1. Tide Keep Rollin’: With its five-stroke victory over Georgia Tech, Alabama won its third event of the year. The field at the event was top-notch and included teams such as top-ranked Oklahoma State, Georgia, Texas, N.C. State, Clemson and recent Big Ten Match Play champion Northwestern. Alabama shot 14 under in the final round and finished 28 under for the tournament. I know it’s early, but has anyone thought what an Alabama vs. Oklahoma State final match would like? I know I have.
Troy Mullinax vs. Drew Page
Corey Whitsett vs. Talor Gooch
Bobby Wyatt vs. Morgan Hoffman
Hunter Hamrick vs. Kevin Tway
Bud Cauley vs. Peter Uihlein
Anyone want to make some predictions on that one?
2. Big (Ten) Disappointment: Four Big Ten Schools were at the Puerto Rico Classic, and only Ohio State (10th) finished in the top 10 out of the 15-team field, followed by Purdue (11th), Michigan (12th) and Northwestern (13th). The Big Ten has several teams with a top-35 ranking, but when they go up against top-tier teams, they seem to struggle. If one of those schools could have posted a top-3 or top-5 finish, that would’ve been a huge feat at this tournament. Instead, the Big Team teams couldn’t rise to the challenge and will once again be overlooked by the other teams that had better finishes from a similar conference, like the ACC.
3. A Hokie ACC: Virginia Tech finished fifth at the Puerto Rico Classic and picked up some impressive head-to-head wins over Oklahoma, Texas, Clemson, N.C. State, the four Big Ten schools and East Tennessee State. The Hokies were ranked 50th in the country and will move up the rankings with this performance. Jay Hardwick’s squad has yet to win this year, but this is now their third top-5 finish in five tournaments. After Georgia Tech, N.C. State is the highest-ranked team from the ACC, at No. 19 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, but I think it’s fair to say the ACC is wide open. Florida State, Clemson and Wake Forest have struggled at times, but if Virginia Tech continues to play like it did at the Puerto Rico Classic, then the ACC Championship could be a real interesting and fun tournament to watch. The ACC is up for grabs, and with no clear-cut favorite, there’s about seven teams that could potentially win.
4. James White Snub? The Hogan Watch list was released recently, with 26 names and not one of them was Georgia Tech’s James White. With a 10-under performance at the Puerto Rico Classic, White has now won two big-time events this year. To close out the fall, White won the U.S. Collegiate, then started the spring with a T-10 in Hawaii. Currently, White is ranked 19th in the country, but his stock will continue to rise with this victory. James White may have been overlooked early, but there is no doubt with his recent play he will be a player to watch at every event coming up.
5. Battle for top spot: Oklahoma State can’t and won’t win every tournament on its regular-season schedule. Besides, a third-place finish is nothing to get upset about. However, with this third-place finish, it may have cost the Cowboys the No. 1 ranking. UCLA entered the spring as the top-ranked team, but lost to Oklahoma State in Hawaii. The Bruins quickly rebounded with a win of their own at the Battle at the Beach. It is becoming clear that the Bruins and Cowboys are the two teams duking it out for the No. 1 spot in the rankings. We will just have to wait and see if this recent third-place finish by the Cowboys will drop them below a team they recently beat a few weeks ago.