Fantasy vs. Reality: Rise of the freshmen

Patrick Rodgers at the 2010 Junior PGA Championship.

Patrick Rodgers at the 2010 Junior PGA Championship.

With the season under way, questions are starting to arise. Some people may already be hitting the panic buttons, but there really isn’t any need to . . . yet. It’s time for Fantasy vs. Reality.

This year’s Player of the Year could once again be a freshman: Reality. With wins by Justin Thomas at the Carpet Capital and Patrick Rodgers at Olympia Fields, it is clear these two freshmen are legit. Before the start of the year, people knew these two players were good, but how good remained to be seen. Their wins came in elite fields against elite competition. Thomas won by four shots at the Carpet Capital, Rodgers by three at Olympia Fields. It should be noted, though, that Thomas followed his first victory with a 22nd-place finish last week at Olympia Fields. The season is early, but we are already seeing that this incoming freshman class is living up to its hype. The “Fab Five” of Thomas-Rodgers-Anthony Paolucci-Cheng Tsung Pan-Jordan Spieth are already off to a fast start with two wins, but the question remains: How many can they win altogether?

It’s time to worry about the Longhorns: Fantasy. Relax, Longhorns fans, it was just one tournament. Besides, the team still finished fifth at a very challenging Olympia Fields. Jordan Spieth wasn’t in the lineup, and will most likely make his collegiate debut in a few weeks at the Jerry Pate Intercollegiate. Dylan Frittelli finished runner-up at the event. Frittelli is still the top player on the team, and will be as long as it takes Spieth to get in the groove of things at college. Coach John Fields will have an interesting decision to make in the next few weeks of qualifying, though. Julio Vegas, who was most likely one of the players on the bubble for Olympia Fields, tied for 11th and was the team’s second-best finisher. The teams other three starters -- Cody Gribble, Kramer Hickok and Alex Moon -- all tied for 46th by shooting 15 over for the tournament. It will be interesting to see who will be the odd man out at the next event, assuming Spieth makes his debut at the Jerry Pate.

Stanford doesn’t need to wait on David Chung to rebound: Reality. It’s been clear for quite some time now that David Chung has not been the same golfer since his amazing summer of 2010. Not only did Chung win the Porter Cup and Western Am that summer, but was runner-up at the U.S. Amateur. Fast forward to present time, and Chung was not in the Stanford lineup at Olympia Fields. The Cardinal was led by Patrick Rodgers, who notched his first win of the year, followed by Andrew Yun finishing third and Cameron Wilson fourth. If anyone from Stanford struggled over the weekend, it was freshman Patrick Grimes, who tied for 46th. Also in the mix for playing time at Stanford is freshman Marcel Puyat, redshirt sophomore Andre DeDecker and junior Wilson Bowen. This Stanford team is deep, and it will be interesting to see if and when Chung can play his way back into the team’s lineup.

There’s only 10 top teams in men’s college golf: Fantasy. The parity in men’s college golf this year is absurd. You can make the case for at least 20 teams as to why they are not only a top team, but could potentially win the national championship. This year it will be tough for teams to win on a consistent basis. Remember, a team only needs to make it in to the top eight of match play. Then anything can happen. Augusta State may have been the best team two years ago, but were the Jaguars the best team at Karsten Creek this past May? The season is early, and rosters are still being tinkered with. Stars will emerge and other players will take a step backward – that’s the nature of the game. This year, however, there are just too many good teams. That’s a great problem to have in college golf.

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