Wildman looks ahead: April 1-7
The season is starting to wind down, and a few teams need some great finishes to help their rankings. Let’s take a look at some big events happening this week as we wind down the regular season.
Ping/ASU Invitational (women)
Date: April 1-3
Field: Arizona, Arizona State, California, Denver, New Mexico, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Pepperdine, San Diego State, Stanford, Texas, TCU, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Washington, Washington State
The scoop: Let’s just call this tournament the Pac-10 Preview. Nine of the 17 teams in the field are from the conference and will also be playing ASU Karsten Golf Course, the same course that is hosting this year’s Pac-10 Championship in mid-April. There is no secret that this conference is loaded with star power, as five teams are ranked in the Golfweek/Sagarin top 10. Expect this one to be a shootout between the “Big Three” of USC, UCLA and host Arizona State on its own course. For teams like Washington, Washington State, Stanford and Oregon State it will be a good way for them to get familiar with the course.
This top-notch field will once again will provide a sneak peek of what to expect at nationals in May.
Wildman’s pick: USC. The Trojans finished tied for second behind Purdue in a similar field at the Battle at Rancho Bernardo a week ago. This week, Purdue is not in the field, and the Trojans will be looking for their third win of the year. When it comes to a tournament such as this one, it looks like a coin flip between USC and UCLA. Hopefully this week tails won’t fail.
Insperity Augusta State Invitational (men)
Field: Alabama, Augusta State, Augusta State (B), Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, Houston, Illinois, Lamar, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, South Carolina-Aiken, Tennessee, UCLA, Virginia Tech, Washington.
The scoop: Three of the hottest teams in the country will be in Augusta on the weekend before the Masters, battling it out for bragging rights. Alabama is coming off its fourth straight stroke-play title, an 18-shot victory at the Linger Longer. If you throw out their match-play results, the Crimson Tide haven’t lost since mid-October, when they finished third at the Jerry Pate. Oklahoma State comes in to town with back-to-back victories of its own, at the Southern Highlands and Oregon Duck Invitational. You have to wonder, though, whether the Cowboys will be mentally into this one, knowing that their No. 1 player, junior Peter Uihlein, will skip the college event to focus on that other event in town, just a 7-iron away from Forest Hills, at Augusta National.
Augusta State, the defending NCAA champion, is coming off a victory at the General Hackler and runner-up at the Hootie at Bulls Bay. Expect 'Bama, OSU and the hosts to battle UCLA for the victory.
Wildman’s pick: I’ve had this event circled on my calendar for a while, and I’m pulling out the seersuckers to clash with my red head! It’s hard to believe that ‘Bama hasn’t lost a stroke-play tournament since October. This is the kind of showdown that college golf fans have been craving, and they will get it. My only worry for Oklahoma State is that there is tons of excitement with current and former players in the Masters next week, and I’m not sure they’ll be completely focused in this one. I’m saying, Roll Tide!
Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic (women)
Field: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Chattanooga, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Furman, Georgia, Georgia State, Kennesaw State, Kent State, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Purdue, South Carolina, Virginia, Wake Forest
The scoop: You probably are wondering how 23 teams possibly could get in 18 holes a day? Each team will bring five players and play in the same group with their teammates. That means five girls on one hole at a time. However, there is a twist: After each hole, the top four scores on that hole will count toward the team score. Confused yet?
Not sure whether it will be a hit with the players or fans, but tournament organizers are trying something new. This will be interesting as teams will now have a better chance to defeat top-ranked teams such as Purdue, Alabama, Duke and Virginia.
Wildman’s pick: This whole thing just seems a bit silly to me. It just doesn’t seem to make sense. I think this format is designed to help lower-ranked teams beat the favorites, but I don’t see it happening. Expect Alabama and Purdue to contend for the title. I’ll take the Boilermakers, who will try to win their third in a row. All year, the talk has been about the Pac-10 teams and ‘Bama, but defending NCAA champion Purdue is hitting its stride at a perfect time in the year. I’ll go with Purdue to make it a hat trick.