Yesterday we took a look at five things to watch from the East Regional, so today we’ll preview five things to watch from the Central. The first tee shot goes up in the air on Thursday, which means it’s time to get fired up!
1. Can Duke win one? The Blue Devils have had a great season this year with strong finishes everywhere they played, but there is something missing. This year Duke has failed to win a tournament. Coach Dan Brooks’ squad will enter the Central Regional as the No. 2 overall seed, behind UCLA. In years past, Duke was a strong contender for the national title. But, while no one can question the talent, one has to question why Duke didn’t pick up a win this season. If Duke can win this regional, then they will instantly become a team we talk about as a contender to win it all. Their No. 1 competition this week is UCLA, which has battled week-in and week-out with USC for the No. 1 overall ranking in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. Point blank- if Duke fails to win this regional, then I don’t think they should be considered a national contender.
2. Notre Dame has the home-course advantage and should be able to take advantage of it. Playing Warren Golf Course is no easy task and I expect several teams to struggle, especially those with players that have never played there before (some players played the course at the Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship last summer).
The Fighting Irish won their fall event- the William K. Warren Irish Invitational by five shots over Kent State. The top half of the field was filled with teams from the top 50 of the rankings. Notre Dame has had a good season, playing in tough tournaments with strong fields, however, pressure will be on the Irish since they are playing on their home golf course. The team will enter as the No. 9 seed in this regional, but that number is skewed since they have the home course advantage. Look for the Irish to finish in the top eight and move on to Nationals.
3. Weather will play a factor in South Bend. The one thing that teams can never control is the weather and according to weather forecasts the temperature is not expecting to go much north of 60, and it could be as low as 43. One might think those numbers don’t seem too bad, but when you add rain to the equation it could make for some pretty bad days to play golf.
The Warren Golf Course is tough as it is, and with teams playing in the rain it can start to show its teeth even more. Conditions will be tough, and that should make for an exciting finish down the stretch to see which eight teams were able to weather the storm.
4. Can Wake Forest forget what happened a year ago and concentrate on this year? Heading into regionals last year, it seemed that Wake Forest was the team with all the momentum after the winning the ACC Championship. Wake was a top-10 team in the country and one that was getting recognition as a legitimate national contender. Unfortunately, Wake failed to make it out of the East Regional as the No. 3 seed, finishing tied for ninth with Texas Tech – seven shots back of TCU.
What Wake needs to do now is forget about last year and concentrate on this year. Wake is a talented team, but it’s one that can never seem to get three straight rounds of solid scores. Cheyenne Woods is playing extremely well for Wake Forest, but when you get to regionals it takes a complete team effort to advance. Look for Wake Forest to be ready to go from Day 1, and cement themselves in the top eight of the leaderboard.
5. My guess is that the Central Regional will have the most lower seeds advance of any regional. Last year, the Central Regional saw three of the top eight teams advance to nationals. This year that same number of teams could fail to advance again.
Kent State (No. 11 seed) and Ohio State (10) both have a leg-up on several teams in this field as they too played the Warren Course in the fall for Notre Dame’s tournament. The Golden Flashes came in second to Notre Dame and Ohio State finished third. Another factor in those two teams’ favor is that they are used to the weather conditions expected in South Bend.
Notre Dame, Ohio State and Kent State may have the biggest advantages in the field and they are only the 9-11 seeds. Chattanooga (12), Northwestern (13) and Minnesota (14), will also be comfortable in those surroundings and could easily knock out one of the top eight seeds for a trip to Nationals.