NCAA Men’s Championship preview
When: May 26-30
Where: Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio
Who: Eighteen of the top 20 teams in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings
Defending champion: UCLA; Kevin Chappell, UCLA
Scoop: The new championship format will be the talk of the tournament. Teams will play 54 holes of stroke play to determine the individual champion and the eight teams that advance will play match play. The quarterfinals and semifinals will take place Friday, with the championship match being held Saturday.
It’s hard to tell what kind of team the new format will favor.
Depth could be important because all five matches will count, unlike stroke play where a team can throw out a score each round. However, a team only needs three players to win their matches in order to advance to the next round. That means a top-heavy lineup may fare well, as long as its top players don’t have an off day.
A team’s lineup will be set in order of the player’s Golfstat rankings, so coaches can’t try to be creative and send their top players out in the No. 5 position.
Of course, the only guarantee about match play is that there are no guarantees.
Depth chart: No surprise, but No. 1 Oklahoma State and No. 2 Georgia are the deepest teams in the country.
All five players in Oklahoma State’s lineup are ranked 33rd or better in Golfweek’s individual rankings, including No. 1 Morgan Hoffmann and eighth-ranked Rickie Fowler. The Cowboys have been helped by the emergence of freshman Peter Uihlein, who had trouble breaking the Cowboys’ lineup most of the year, but has finished 8th, 9th and 2nd in the Cowboys’ past three starts.
Oklahoma State has won three consecutive events.
The Bulldogs may have only one player in the top 15 in Golfweek’s individual rankings (No. 14 Brian Harman), but all five players are ranked in the top 40.
No. 4 Washington is one of the hottest team in the country, having gone 1-1-2 in its past three events. It would have been three in a row, but the Huskies struggled down the stretch at the Central Regional. Washington won Stanford’s Intercollegiate by 15 strokes and the Pac-10 Championship by 18.
Down and out: USC, the No. 3 team in the country, will be without Jamie Lovemark, who has a fractured rib. He will be replaced in the Trojans’ lineup by senior Ryan Linton.
The Trojans are coming off an eighth-place showing at the Pac-10 Championship, then finished fifth at the West Regional, where freshman Steve Lim had to shoot 66 for the Trojans to advance without a shot to spare.
Clemson (No. 7) is the highest-ranked team in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings not in the field, and one of just two teams in the top 20 not at Inverness. LSU (No. 18) is the other.
Eight is great: Just making the top eight will be a tough task, but if last year is any indication, most of the top teams could be safe. The only surprise to sneak into the top eight through 54 holes last year was Kent State.
UCLA, USC, Clemson, Stanford, Oklahoma State, Florida and Georgia all were in the top eight through 54 holes last year, though Georgia only had one shot to spare over ninth-place Washington. Alabama would have missed the cut.
Player of the year race: Canadians Matt Hill (North Carolina State) and Nick Taylor (Washington) finished 1-2 at the Central Regional and could lock up player-of-the-year honors with strong showings. Hill has six victories, including the ACC title and Central Regional.
Taylor has won four times this season and finished second in his past two starts at the Pac-10 Championship and regional. He was runner-up at last year’s NCAA Championship.
There are other players that could take the award from them with a win.
Kyle Stanley, who won the Hogan Award last week, has one last chance to win an NCAA individual title before turning professional. Stanley was the runner-up at the ‘07 tournament, and was second through 54 holes last year before shooting a final-round 82 to fall into a tie for seventh. Stanley had to win a playoff at this year’s Northeast Regional to advance as an individual.
Morgan Hoffmann, the No. 1 player in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, tied for first at the Ping/Golfweek Preview earlier this year at Inverness. Hoffmann also shared medalist honors at the Morris Williams Intercollegiate and won the Big 12 title.
History lesson: Inverness has hosted four U.S. Opens (1920, ‘31, ‘57 and ‘79), two PGA Championships (‘86, ‘93) and one U.S. Amateur (‘73).
Bob Tway holed out from a bunker on the final hole to win the ‘86 PGA at Inverness. His son, Kevin, will be in Oklahoma State’s lineup this week.
The NCAA Men’s Championship field in order of their Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking:
1. Oklahoma St.
8. Georgia Tech
11. South Carolina
13. Arizona St.
14. Texas A&M
16. Central Florida
17. Texas Tech
26. Wake Forest
48. Ohio St.
63. San Diego
• • •
3. Matt Hill, N.C. State
7. Kyle Stanley, Clemson
60. Hugues Joannes, Lamar
65. Corey Nagy, Charlotte
136. Brady Johnson, BYU
236. Cody Paladino, Baylor