Thumbs up: Karsten Creek | Thumbs down: Alabama
What a great week it was in Stillwater for the National Championship! There was so much going on that some things got overlooked. We all know that Augusta State won the national championship, but there was still more to praise. Let's get to it in the final edition of thumbs up and thumbs down of the 2010-2011 NCAA golf season.
1. Karsten Creek: The job that the NCAA, Oklahoma State and staff of Karsten Creek should be commended. For most of the week, Stillwater, Okla. felt like it was hosting a U.S. Open as opposed to a collegiate national championship. When Oklahoma State was still in the tournament crowds were thundering loud, and galleries were deep. The golf course was in immaculate shape, and the match play portion of the championship could not have been more exciting. Part of me wishes this week can go straight to DVD, so I can re-live this past week all over again. Everything about Karsten Creek last week gets two giant thumbs up!
2. John Peterson: This year's individual national champion simply tamed Karsten Creek. After the practice round last Monday, with wind gusts of 38 mph, several players looked defeated before they even took their first official shot. However, this LSU senior was unphased and let his driver and putter go to work. For 54 holes, Peterson had 28 pars, 15 birdies, one eagle, eight bogeys and two others. Peterson opened the Championship with a 6-over 42, but went 32-34-31 over the next 27 holes to climb up the leaderboard and take the title at 5 under. Not only did Peterson defeat Patrick Cantlay, and the "Big Three" from Oklahoma State (Uihlein, Tway, and Hoffman), he defeated Karsten Creek as well.
3. Big Ten: Throughout the year I have been hard on the Big Ten. I hope with a giant thumbs up they accept my apology. Two teams (Ohio State and Illinois) made it in to match play, and two other teams (Iowa and Michigan) finished T-10. The next best conference in Oklahoma was the ACC that had two teams make it in to match play (Georgia Tech and Duke). What the Big Ten did was remarkable and shocking at the same time. Several of the conference's teams had a tough Spring, but when it mattered most they showed up. Throughout the year Big Ten teams were often overlooked because of the way teams from the Pac-10, SEC and Big 12 dominated the rankings.
1. Alabama: Just like the women, the men faltered when it mattered most. Both the men's and women's team entered the national championship ranked third in the country, but neither contended to win a national championship. After 36 holes it was looking like a sure thing for 'Bama to make the top eight for match play. However, in the third round of stroke play, Jay Seawell saw something he had never seen before. Four of his starting five tied or shot their worst round of the year all on the same day. After the first two rounds of stroke play, the Crimson Tide were in fifth place, but after shooting the second worst round of the day (+28) 'Bama dropped to 14th and its title hopes ended. Entering the tournament this was a team many thought would be tough to beat in match play 1-5, and many were disappointed to never get the opportunity to see it.
2. Florida: After winning three regular-season tournaments, the SEC Championship, plus an NCAA regional, expectations were high for the Gators. The University of Florida wasn't ever in contention en route to an underwhelming 23rd-place finish. Buddy Alexander's squad came to Karsten Creek as No. 5 in the country, but never even hovered around the top 10 of the leaderboard. With a T-13 finish, Bank Vongvanij was the only Gator to finish in the top 70 of the individual leaderboard. Phillip Choi (T-74), Andres Echavarria (T-113), Tyler McCumber (T-113) and Tommy Mou (T-129) all struggled mightily.
3. Oklahoma State in match play: It's becoming a poor tradition at the national championship. On one hand you can say they are making it to match play for the chance to win a title, but on the flip side, they are 0-3. In 2009, when the Cowboys lost to Georgia at Inverness, the loss was "acceptable." Georgia was a very talented team, and that one could have gone either way. Last year at the Honors Course, the Cowboys were beaten by a team they were better than, and this year to lose on their home course with their hometown crowds is near inexcusable. For the last three years, the Oklahoma State Cowboys have come to the national championship as the best team in the country, but they have zero titles to show for it.