Ringler: Men's NCAA regional system working well
Baton Rouge Regional - 72.09
Tallahassee Regional - 72.22
Columbus Regional - 72.27
Fayetteville Regional - 72.37
Tempe Regional - 72.46
Pullman Regional - 72.50
*Rankings based on the power rating of each team in the field
Postseason has arrived in Division I men's golf, and play begins May 16 at six regional sites. The six-regional format is now five years old, and seems to be working very well. That's largely because there are fewer teams, which ultimately means the six tournaments operate more smoothly.
All teams now play in the same wave. That means that each teams is, for the most part, experiencing the same type of weather and playing conditions as opposed to 27 teams split between a morning and afternoon wave. Pace of play is much better with half as many players needing to complete a round each day. Questions surrounded the six-site regional format the first few years after it was implemented. Those questions focused on whether the new format would be easier to pull off or more difficult, and if the right teams would advance.
“It’s a much better format with six regionals," TCU head coach Bill Montigel said. "Every team tees off in same wave where in the past you had a morning and afternoon wave and weather could really play a big factor."
TCU is the No. 2 seed behind top-ranked California in the Pullman regional.
Some would say that in the three-regional format, where 27 teams played for 10 qualifying spots, a team had room for a bad round. That’s no longer the case. Tension will be high at the regionals for the next three days and there is little room for even a bad stretch of holes. Nearly the same number of AQs were awarded to conference winners this year as five years ago (or longer). With six regionals, however, those automatic-qualifying teams (which wouldn't have received an at-large bid) are more spread out among the six regional fields. That means each field is a deeper field.
Washington head coach Matt Thurmond agrees the format has created a higher-quality event, but is quick to mention something he notices.
“I like the current format better except the home team has a huge advantage," he said. "That advantage means more with only five qualifying spots.”
A host team is in the field at four of the six sites this year. LSU, Arkansas, Florida State and Arizona State all have that advantage. Of those four, only one is seeded outside the top five, and that is Arizona State. The Sun Devils are the No. 9 seed in the Tempe Regional and could play a big part if the Sun Devils advance. Arizona State head coach Tim Mickelson agrees there can be an advantage of playing at home.
“Any time you get to play at home there is an advantage to some degree – some more than others,” Mickelson said. “I personally don’t think our course has a lot of local knowledge.”
Mickelson also added that there is an incentive to host and play at home, which makes it easier for the NCAA to find six regional sites each year. Another of the concerns in moving to six regional sites was whether the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship Committee would get enough bids to continue to host that number of regionals each year.
According to Donnie Wagner, who is the Assistant Director of Championships and Alliances with the NCAA, that has not been a problem.
“Since the men’s golf committee moved from three regionals to six regional sites, the number of bids that the committee has received to host regional play has far exceeded the number of sites that are being awarded,” Wagner said. “Just this past year, men’s golf had over 20 bids from our member institutions for regional play with the committee awarding regional sites for both 2014 and 2015. This has been the case each time bids have been solicited from the membership to host regionals. “
Those numbers alone support Thurmond’s point. Hosting and participating at a home venue could play a big role if a team can snag one of those five qualifying spots and advance to the national championship.