Men's Mid-Week Report: Cal, Missouri still perfect
Welcome to Golfweek’s Mid-Week Report. We wanted to use this hump day to update you on all the latest college news and give you a quick glance at what to look ahead to this weekend.
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THE BIG 5
Stories you need to know now...
1. Cal: The Golden Bears dominated at home, winning the Alister MacKenzie Invitational by 20 shots for a fourth consecutive victory to start the season. The Bears are one tournament away from an undefeated fall, and it’s a big one. They close their season later this week at the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational, where the Bears, defending NCAA champs Texas and preseason No. 1 Alabama highlight the field. This was the second time this year that Cal placed four players in the top 10 at an event. More importantly, they seemed to have found a solid fifth man to join Michael Kim, Max Homa, Michael Weaver and Brandon Hagy. Joel Stalter finished third at the Mackenzie after an eighth-place finish at the Pac-12 Preview.
2. Alabama: Big things were expected from the Tide. They were on the cover of this magazine’s college preview, after all. They started the season with a third-place finish at the Carpet Capital and T-9 at the Preview. Not bad, but not up to expectations. Their final-round comeback to win the Jerry Pate may right the ship. “We needed this win,” Alabama head coach Jay Seawell said. “We have been stumbling so I’m really proud.”
3. Missouri: Tigers and Bears, oh my. Missouri joined Cal as teams to start the season with four consecutive tournament titles. Missouri did it with a victory at the Bank of Tennessee at Blackthorn. The only downside? Missouri’s top player, Jace Long, fell short of his fourth consecutive win, finishing eighth.
4. Houston: No, it’s not the Dave Williams era all over again, but the Cougars are coming off a big comeback win at the Lone Star Invitational. Houston’s final-round 275 allowed the Cougars to make up 16 shots on leader North Texas, which is led by two-thirds of the Mexico team that finished second at the World Amateur Team Championship. It’s the continuation of a strong start for Houston, which has finished 3rd-2nd-2nd-1st in its first four starts of the year.
5. Georgia: It had been a strong start to the season for Georgia, which worked its way up to No. 5 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. They were runner-up at Carpet Capital and won the Brickyard. The Bulldogs hit a bump, though, with a sixth-place finish at the AutoTrader.com Classic, where they were the fourth-best team from the state of Georgia. The ‘Dogs finished behind Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Mercer, Chattanooga and Winthrop. Chalk it up to one bad week, the type that’s easily forgotten come spring.
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1. Justin Thomas, Alabama: Last year’s consensus player of the year picked up his first victory of his sophomore season. He’s trying to become the first repeat Haskins Award winner since Phil Mickelson won three in a row from 1990-92. The victory was Thomas’ fifth in 15 career collegiate starts. The sophomore already has tied Steve Lowery’s school record for career wins.
2. Brandon Hagy, Cal: The junior picked up his first collegiate title at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational. He flirted with 59 in the second round before shooting 62, then went on to win by three shots after taking a five-shot lead after 36 holes. This win comes after making the semifinals at the U.S. Amateur and winning the State Fair Amateur, a top regional amateur event.
3. AJGA PoYs: With freshmen winning the past two Haskins Awards, it was easy to expect big things from this year’s class. Some of the big-name recruits have yet to throw their hat into the player-of-the-year ring. South Carolina’s Matthew NeSmith finished 67th at the AutoTrader.com Classic on Tuesday, the same day he was named AJGA player of the year for 2012. He started his career with 19th- and 7th-place finishes. Clemson’s Cody Proveaux, the 2011 AJGA player of the year, has finished no worse than 31st in his first three starts, but also no better than 12th. Georgia Tech’s Shun Yat Hak, who was No. 1 in both the Golfweek and AJGA junior rankings, has played just one event for the Yellow Jackets, finishing 62nd as an individual at Carpet Capital. It’s very early in their college careers. We’ve just been spoiled by fast-starting freshmen over the past few years. Texas’ Brandon Stone, who won the Carpet Capital, seems to be the early leader among the freshmen.
4. Steven Fox, Chattanooga: His reign as U.S. Amateur champion had started slowly, but Fox has put together two consecutive strong results. He was runner-up at the AutoTrader.com Classic, his best college finish since his U.S. Amateur victory. It comes off an impressive 10th-place finish at the World Amateur Team Championship.
5. Michael Kim, California: He hasn’t won this season, but he’s No. 4 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings because of impressive consistency. He’s finished in the top-10 in all four starts this year: T-2, Gopher Invitational; T-10, Ping-Golfweek Preview; T-6, Pac-12 Preview; T-6 Alister Mackenzie.
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BEST OF THE BEST
How the top 5 teams in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings fared:
1. California: Won, Alister Mackenzie Invitational
2. Texas: DNP
3. Washington: DNP
4. USC: DNP
5. Georgia: 6th, AutoTrader.com Classic
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How the top 5 players in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings fared:
1. Jon Rahm Rodriguez, Arizona State: T-26, Alister Mackenzie Invitational
2. Brandon Stone, Texas: DNP
3. Cheng-Tsung Pan, Washington: DNP
4. Michael Kim, Cal: T-5, Alister Mackenzie Invitational
5. Max Homa, Cal: T-7, Alister Mackenzie Invitational
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Tournament (team winner; individual winner)
Alister MacKenzie Invitational (Cal/Brandon Hagy, Cal)
Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate (Alabama/Justin Thomas, Alabama)
Rod Myers Invitational (Duke/Julian Suri, Duke and UNC’s Clark Palmer)
Bank of Tennessee at Blackthorn (Missouri/Grant Milner, Memphis)
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THIS WEEK'S SCHEDULE
U.S. Collegiate Championship
The Golf Club of Georgia, Alpharetta, Ga.
The field: Auburn, Clemson, Duke, East Tennessee State, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Kent State, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC, Virginia, Wake Forest, Washington.
The skinny: This is always one of the premiere events of the year. This may be the deepest field of the fall, and the event is just down the road from the NCAA Championship site.
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Isleworth Collegiate Invitational
Isleworth Country Club, Windermere, Fla.
The field: Alabama, Arkansas, Augusta State, California, Florida, Illinois, LSU, New Mexico, North Florida, TCU, Texas, Vanderbilt.
The skinny: Texas, the defending Isleworth and NCAA champions, highlight the field, along with No. 1 Cal and preseason No. 1 Alabama, which is coming off victory at its Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate. Those three teams were paired together in stroke play at the NCAA Championship. Let’s hope tournament organizers do the same at Isleworth.