Thumbs up: UCLA | Thumbs down: Arkansas
• For more ramblings from Wildman, follow him via Twitter: @GolfweekWildman
There were several tournaments taking place this week, with many impressive victories. That said, there were some teams that didn’t perform up to expectations. I’ve waited a long time to write one of these, so here we go: It’s time for thumbs up and thumbs down.
1. Coastal Carolina (women). The 53rd-ranked Chanticleers came down to the Sunshine State for their first tournament of the spring and left victorious. Coastal Carolina defeated Tulane by a stroke to win its second tournament of the season. Jessica Alexander led the way for Coastal with a 4-under total for the tournament. All five Chanticleers finished in the top 50, with four finishing among the top 30. This win should help Coastal climb a few spots in the rankings after picking up some impressive wins over higher-ranked teams such as Tulane (15), Minnesota (42), South Carolina (31), Texas (22) and Ole Miss (32). Next up for Coastal Carolina: The Kinderlou Forest Challenge in two weeks.
2. UCLA (men). Against a strong field on the West Coast, the Bruins squeaked out a three-stroke victory at the Battle of the Beach. The Bruins started the spring with a third-place finish in Hawaii and lost their No. 1 spot in the rankings. Now, the Bruins, No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, will try to regain that coveted top spot. Freshman Patrick Cantlay continues to play well, with a second-place finish, and teammate Connor Driscoll pitched in with a T-3 performance. UCLA and Oklahoma State probably will go back and forth for the No. 1 spot, so winning a tournament helps the Bruins. Just to give you an idea of some of the competition, UCLA picked up head-to-head wins over San Diego (24), Washington (23), Augusta State (18), Arizona State (35), San Diego State (11), Arkansas (13) and Oregon State (36).
3. Iowa State (women). Has anyone noticed how well the Cyclones have been playing this year? Iowa State’s worst finish this year has been fourth . . . twice! Iowa State continued its strong play with a second-place finish at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic, and it appeared briefly that the Cyclones might pull off the upset over Alabama. At one point in Round 3, Iowa State was 8 under for its round, but the Cyclones finished 1 under and lost to ’Bama by five. The Cyclones had four players finish in the top 16, and are sending out a message to be on the lookout for their Cyclone warning!
• • •
1. Oklahoma State (women). I understand that OSU lost two of its key contributors, but shouldn’t this team still have depth or other players to step up? After a 13th-place finish at the Wildcat Invitational, the Cowgirls placed T-17 out of 18 teams at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic. What’s even more alarming is the fact that they were 64 shots back of winner Alabama. Jocelyn Alford was the Cowgirls’ top player, at T-47 with a score of 18-over 234. In five tournaments this year, OK State has been inconsistent, to say the least. The team started the year with a 16th-place finish at the Mason Rudolph, followed by a win at the Johnie Imes Invitational, then a second at the Dale McNamara and a 14th at the Landfall. There is no doubt the Cowgirls are dropping in the rankings, but at this rate will they drop out of postseason consideration?
2. Arkansas (men). The 13th-ranked team in the country had higher expectations than an eighth-place finish at the Battle at the Beach. It was the first non-top-5 showing for the Razorbacks all year. One surprising observation: Arkansas was one of a just a few teams not to have improved its team score round to round. Arkansas posted scores of 353-365-369 to finish 37 over for the tournament, 30 shots behind champion UCLA.
3. North Texas (men). It’s hard to give thumbs down to a team that finishes third at a tournament, but I was really looking to see the Mean Green continue to shine. At the UTSA/Oak Hills Invitational, North Texas hung tough with Texas Tech, but blew a golden opportunity in the third and final round. North Texas shot 8 over in Round 3, but also missed out on a second-place finish to Oklahoma by a stroke. If UNT wants to be recognized as a team on the rise, it has to win a tournament like this one. The Mean Green are playing well, but a victory would be a big step.