College Men

NCAA men's final: Scouting report, 'Bama vs. OSU

Alabama's Cory Whitsett and Oklahoma State's Jordan Niebrugge will face off in Wednesday's final match.
Alabama's Cory Whitsett and Oklahoma State's Jordan Niebrugge will face off in Wednesday's final match. ( Tracy Wilcox )

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

HUTCHINSON, Kan. - For the third consecutive year, the Alabama Crimson Tide will compete for a national championship. Alabama, the defending national champion and top-ranked team all year long, will face Oklahoma State beginning at 2:10 p.m. CDT here at Prairie Dunes Country Club.

The Cowboys will be eyeing an 11th national title and first since 2006, when Mike McGraw was a first-year head coach at Oklahoma State. This time around, it’s Alan Bratton, who replaced McGraw and is in his first year as head coach at Oklahoma State.

McGraw, who was let go at Oklahoma State almost one year ago, is the assistant for Jay Seawell at Alabama. Seawell has guided the Crimson Tide to the championship final the last three years.

Alabama is working on some impressive numbers since match play was introduced to the NCAA Championship format. The Crimson Tide are 7-1 all-time in match play, including 1-1 in title matches. Oklahoma State is 5-3 in NCAA match-play competition, including 0-1 in the championship match (losing to Augusta State in 2010).

Both head coaches look forward to the opportunity Wednesday. Seawell and Bratton were asked the same question following their rounds: If Alabama or Oklahoma State is to leave Prairie Dunes as champion, what will the players have done well?

Seawell: “We would have to have played great golf, because Oklahoma State is a great team. We have played with them. We know about them, and Mike (McGraw) is a large part of that team and he knows how good they are. And for us to be successful, we will have had to have played great golf.”

Bratton: “You have to play the angles on the greens. You can’t get a little greedy because if you do, (designer) Perry Maxwell jumps up somewhere and smacks you in the head. All of our guys know where to go around this golf course. It’s just a matter if they can execute the shot.”

• • •

  • 2:10 p.m.: Bobby Wyatt (UA) vs. Talor Gooch (OSU)
  • 2:20 p.m.: Robby Shelton (UA) vs. Zachary Olsen (OSU)
  • 2:30 p.m.: Tom Lovelady (UA) vs. Wyndham Clark (OSU)
  • 2:40 p.m.: Trey Mullinax (UA) vs. Ian Davis (OSU)
  • 2:50 p.m.: Cory Whitsett (UA) vs. Jordan Niebrugge (OSU)

NOTE: The format to set the lineups here at the NCAA Championship is similar to one used by captains in the Presidents Cup. The coach of the better-seeded team had the choice to put the first name on the board. If he does go first – and in this case, Seawell did – Bratton followed with next selection and had the first selection in Match 2. This was repeated until all five players were on the board.

• • •

Below is a look at each match, with strengths and weaknesses from Alabama assistant coach Mike McGraw and Oklahoma State assistant coach Brian Guetz.

Match 1

Bobby Wyatt, Alabama, vs. Talor Gooch, Oklahoma State

Wyatt, a senior ranked No. 7 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, is 2-0 in match play this week.

Strengths: “Driving it better this week than he has ever driven it. Fierce competitor and at times to a fault, but his competitiveness really bodes well for match play.”

Weaknesses: “Maybe the emotions get the better of him sometime or maybe his putting, but he is putting beautifully this week.”

Gooch, a senior ranked No. 30 in the Golfweek/Sagarins, is 2-0 in match play this week.

Strengths: “He plays fast and when he gets going he gets on a roll, and that’s why we put him out first. He has been around this course more than anyone on our team and played it maybe 16 or 17 teams and maybe more so than any player in the field, and that is a huge strength out here.”

Weaknesses: “If anything, it’s that he may get too rushed.”

PREDICTION: Gooch

• • •

Match 2

Robby Shelton, Alabama, vs. Zachary Olsen, Oklahoma State

Shelton, a freshman ranked No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarins, is 2-0 in match play this week.

Strengths: “I have not been around a freshman that has as much talent as he has. Very few have the type of composure that he has. If a coach is supposed to be really positive, then he is a lot more positive than any coach I have ever been around, including myself.”

Weaknesses: “He doesn’t hit it very far, but that doesn’t matter because he hits it pretty straight. Putting occasionally … his putter is a little streaky.”

Zachary Olsen, a freshman ranked No. 113 in the Golfweek/Sagarins, is 2-0 in match play this week.

Strengths: “He is the most competitive guy on our team, whether it is pingpong or anything we do. His competitiveness is without question why he is doing well out here and winning matches. He is your Honda Accord: going to go forever and be Mr. Reliable.”

Weaknesses: “Sometimes his wedges are not his strength. He drives it very well and gives himself a lot of opportunities, and he probably does not take advantage of them like he should.”

PREDICTION: Olsen

• • •

Match 3

Tom Lovelady, Alabama, vs. Wyndham Clark, Oklahoma State

Lovelady, a sophomore ranked No. 68 in the Golfweek/Sagarins, is 1-1 in match play this week.

Strengths: “He has turned into a mature golfer and been a serious contributor to this team this spring.”

Weaknesses: “Probably his irons, and they are not probably as good as he would like them.”

Wyndham Clark, a freshman ranked No. 10 in the Golfweek/Sagarins, is 2-0 in match play this week.

Strengths: “He hits the ball solid. He has probably one of the better short games in college golf. One of the better putters from 10 feet and in that I have seen in college.”

Weaknesses: “Sometimes probably tries to get too cute with his shots when a stock shot would be good. Downside can be he is too much of a perfectionist and sometimes he wants it too much.”

PREDICTION: Clark

• • •

Match 4

Trey Mullinax, Alabama, vs. Ian Davis, Oklahoma State

Mullinax, a senior ranked No. 13 in the Golfweek/Sagarins, is 1-1 in match play this week.

Strengths: “He hits it long a fairly straight.”

Weaknesses: “It had been putting.”

Ian Davis, a senior ranked No. 30 in the Golfweek/Sagarins, is 0-1-1 in match play this week.

Strengths: “He is competitive and is one of the more competitive guys on our team. He makes a lot of birdies, and that is what he does.

Weaknesses: “He is battling a sinus infection and a sore throat this week. His short game is a little deficient at times. If anything this week, it’s just him feeling bad.”

PREDICTION: Mullinax

• • •

Match 5

Cory Whitsett, Alabama, vs. Jordan Niebrugge, Oklahoma State

Whitsett, a senior ranked No. 25 in the Golfweek/Sagarins, is 1-1 in match play this week.

Strengths: “He is extremely cognitive. He is really creative; he shapes shots and sees things differently and seems to always been in the game.”

Weaknesses: “Occasionally gets to technical and been working his way out of that.

Niebrugge, a sophomore ranked No. 45 in the Golfweek/Sagarins, is 1-1 in match play this week.

Strengths: “His experience in match play, which is huge. He won the USGA Public Links, Western Am and his state amateur (Wisconsin). He is not afraid. He has been in big moments, and he wants the ball at the end of the game. He wants the last shot. He was a baseball closer as a pitcher in high school and is not afraid of that moment.”

Weaknesses: “His golf game is solid from tee-to-green; there is not a whole lot of weakness there. If there is anything, he may get down on himself.”

PREDICTION: Whitsett

OVERALL PREDICTION: Oklahoma State, 3-2