Thumbs up: Arkansas | Thumbs down: LSU
What a week it was in college golf. Comebacks and letdowns, surges and declines on the leaderboards. Let’s go over all the juicy details in this week’s thumbs up/thumbs down.
1. Arkansas. After an eighth-place finish at the Battle at the Beach, the Razorbacks rebounded quite nicely at the John Hayt Intercollegiate. Only two teams were under par in the final round – Arkansas and LSU, which finished third. All signs pointed to another SEC school winning after two rounds, but Auburn shot 4 over on the final day to lose to their conference rival by two strokes. This is Arkansas’ second victory of the season and sixth top-5 finish of the year. The only tournament the Hogs didn’t finish in the top 5 was their eighth-place finish at the Beach. The SEC is an extremely competitive conference, and Arkansas picked up some impressive conference head-to-head wins over LSU, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Ole Miss. This was a great victory for Arkansas at a top tournament – and with a very deep field.
2. San Diego State. The Aztecs won an impressively equal tournament on the West Coast over several top teams at the USC Collegiate Invitational. This win is now three out of four for the Aztecs, who earlier this year won the Arizona Invitational and William H. Tucker Invitational at New Mexico. San Diego State is quietly climbing the rankings, but certainly can be a considered a legitimate top-10 team. At the USC Collegiate Invitational, the Aztecs picked up great head-to-head wins over second ranked UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, Arizona State, Michigan, Cal, San Diego and Washington. After all was said and done, SDSU defeated 10 teams ranked in the top 50 of the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.
3. Southern Cal (women). In a national championship-caliber field at the All State Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, which had 16 of 17 teams ranked in the top 50, including six teams from the top 10, the Trojans came from behind to win. Top-ranked Alabama shot a respectable 2 over in the final round, but USC fired a team score of 6-under 282 on the final day. With that performance, second-ranked USC was able to defeat the top-ranked Crimson Tide. Lisa McCloskey and Sophia Popov both tied for seventh for the Trojans. Much like in men’s golf, where Oklahoma State and UCLA continuously battle for the No. 1 spot in the rankings, the same seems to be happening in the women’s game with Alabama and USC.
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1. LSU. When the Tigers have struggled in tournaments this season, it was because Megan McChrystal wasn’t there. At the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, the No. 1-ranked player in the country was in the lineup for the Bayou Bengals, and even her runner-up finish wasn’t enough to help LSU place in the top 5. Instead, LSU finished nine, 19 shots back of tournament champion Southern Cal. McChrystal once again had an amazing finish at an elite field, but the next LSU Tiger didn’t show up on the leaderboard until Jacqueline Hedwall, at T-36. The other three players for the Tigers were all outside the top 50, and it has to make coach Karen Bahnsen a bit nervous. Typically, when McChystal plays well, the Tigers have a chance to win every tournament. However, at the Allstate, LSU learned golf isn’t a one-person show. The Tigers need to start putting in a complete team effort if they hope to compete for a national championship in May.
2. Florida. The Gators are the fourth-ranked team in the country, and were starting to gather some attention as the surprise team of the 2010-11 season. At the John Hayt Intercollegiate, the Gators had their worst finish of the season (T-6) to finish 18 shots back of tournament champion and conference rival Arkansas. Prior to the Hayt, the Gators had three victories on the season and their worst finish was a T-3, and it came at arguably one of the toughest tournaments in the country, the Isleworth Collegiate. When you play that well, you develop high expectations and expect better than a T-6 finish at a tournament where you’re the local favorite. Sophomore Phillip Choi won the tournament with a score of 7 under, and player-of-the-year candidate Bank Vongvanij finished T-15. When looking for the next Gator on the leaderboard, scan all the way down to T-56 to find junior Michael Furci.
3. Washington. It’s been an up-and-down year for the 23rd-ranked team in the country. Washington struggled to a 12th-place finish at the USC Collegiate Invitational, and it was the third event of the season in which the Huskies failed to finish inside the top 10. Washington has just been way too erratic this year. The Huskies started the year with a runner-up finish at their home tournament, the Kikkor Husky Invitational, but have followed that up with finishes of T-2, 11th, T-4, 12th, T-3 and now 12th. It’s hard to figure out what kind of team Washington is this year. Are they the perennial national-championship contender, or one of a handful of Pac-10 schools that is struggling this year? Could Washington be back to its old ways of being known as a team that comes on late during the year? Washington has four regular-season tournaments left on the schedule before its conference championship, but will the Huskies get it together? The jury is out on this one.