Will Wrong Ron ever be right?
Monday, May 25, 2009
We all know this isn’t a perfect world. If it were, then come May 30, No. 1 Oklahoma State and No. 2 Georgia would square off in the final match to determine the 2009 NCAA champion.
These two teams have jockeyed back and forth between the top two positions in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings all season.
Georgia was on top going into last week’s NCAA regionals, with Oklahoma State second. After the Cowboys won the South Central Regional and the Bulldogs tied for second in the Southeast, the two switched positions again heading into the NCAA Championship on May 26-30 at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
Don’t forget about the all-important format change for this year’s NCAA finals. The 30 teams and six individuals who are not members of those teams will play 54 holes of stroke play. At that time, the individual champion with be crowned and the top eight teams will advance into match play, where a team must win three head-to-head matches to capture the title.
We all know that anything can happen at the NCAA finals, and even more so when match play is thrown into the mix. Will there be some surprises? You can bank on it. Will it produce an unlikely champion? That very well could happen.
Still, I like a final match between Georgia and Oklahoma State. Both teams have plenty of talent and firepower from top to bottom in their lineups, and both know what it takes to win.
This would be the ideal final match for the inaugural year of this new format. And it would be one humdinger of a final.
Georgia and Oklahoma State have faced each other in six tournaments this season. The Bulldogs hold a 4-2 edge, including victories at Isleworth, Puerto Rico and the Linger Longer Invitational. A fourth place at the U.S. Collegiate bested Oklahoma State’s 10th, the Cowboys’ worst outing of the season.
Oklahoma State defeated Georgia with a victory at the Ping/Golfweek Preview and a second to Georgia’s third at UNLV’s Southern Highlands Intercollegiate.
The Bulldogs have won five times this season, including the SEC Championship, and only once have they finished out of the top 5 – a seventh place in their opener at the Carpet Capital last September.
The Cowboys also have five titles and come into the NCAA finals with victories in their last three starts – the Aggie Invitational, Big 12 Championship and South Central Regional. With a national championship, OSU would join Clemson (2003) as the only teams to win conference, regional and NCAA titles in the same season.
Georgia has the edge in experience, with all five starters having competed at last season’s NCAA Championship, where the Bulldogs tied for eighth. The Bulldogs have four players ranked among the top 25 in the nation in No. 14 senior Brian Harman, No. 17 junior Hudson Swafford, No. 18 sophomore Russell Henley and No. 22 sophomore Harris English. And don’t forget senior Adam Mitchell. Though he’s not in the top 25, Mitchell’s no slouch: He was a semifinalist last year at the U.S. Amateur, and he finished ninth at the 2007 NCAA Championship.
Oklahoma State is young, but there’s a ton of talent wrapped in its lineup of one senior, two sophomores and two freshmen. The Cowboys, too, have four top-25 players, led by top-ranked freshman Morgan Hoffmann, who has three victories. Sophomore Rickie Fowler, last season’s Ben Hogan Award winner, is No. 8, while senior Trent Leon is 16th and freshman Peter Uihlein is 19th. Oh, and by the way, sophomore Kevin Tway (No. 33) comes in on the heels of his second consecutive NCAA regional title.
So you can see the dilemma I’m facing as I try to sort out which team my annual “Wrong Ron” pick to win it all this season.
Since 1999, Georgia (1999, 2005) and Oklahoma State (2000, ’06) each have won two national titles. And while I’ve probably picked one of those two teams or the other in more than a half-dozen of the past 10 years, both have failed to make me Right Ron during that span. Of course, that’s hardly a shocker since in the two-plus decades I’ve been picking an NCAA winner I’ve only been successful three times – in 1995 with Oklahoma State, ’98 with UNLV and 2003 with Clemson.
So who gets the curse of Wrong Ron this time around?
I’m going with Georgia for two reasons: The experience factor is a big plus, and secondly, history is not on Oklahoma State’s side. In the 20 years of the Ping/Golfweek Preview, only once has a team won that event in the fall (as OSU did this season) and matched that victory in the spring at the same NCAA course (UNLV in 1997-98).
Besides, I feel Georgia coach Chris Haack and the Bulldogs owe me. They have proven me wrong too many times.
This year, I’m sure Haack and Co. will prove me right.