College Review: Power Rankings, fall superlatives

By Ryan LavnerNovember 20, 2014, 6:05 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll review the main storylines in college golf.

After more than nine months of nonstop golf, after the spring season and the NCAA postseason and the summer amateur schedule and the start of the fall semester, the best players in college golf finally get a 2 ½-month reprieve.

How to spend their much-needed downtime? Well, they will cram for finals, and then spend time with their families, and then, eventually, continue to work on their games. The season doesn’t resume until late January, when each week will be an important step toward the NCAA Championship.  

Now that the fall season is over, here are some midseason awards and the top 10 men's teams in my Power Rankings:

Team of the fall: Oregon 

The Ducks are off to their best start in school history, after winning all four of their fall starts. Their schedule was the 38th toughest, weakest of any top-10 team (per the Sagarin rankings), but they did record an eye-opening win at Colonial that was against one of the top fields of the fall. Freshman Aaron Wise and sophomore Thomas Lim have been terrific so far. 

Honorable mention: Florida State, Illinois, UCLA 

Player of the fall: Ollie Schniederjans, Georgia Tech

Surprise, surprise: The No. 1-ranked amateur in the world continued to play like it this fall, with a victory, a pair of runners-up and no finish worse than sixth in five starts. He finished the fall with a 68.07 scoring average. Expect even better results in his final semester.

Honorable mention: Hunter Stewart, Vanderbilt; Maverick McNealy, Stanford

Biggest surprise of the fall: LSU

Senior All-Americans Ben Taylor and Stewart Jolly have been as good as advertised, helping the Tigers to back-to-back wins. The Tigers finished third in their toughest event (the U.S. Collegiate), which is a promising sign, for their schedule will only get more difficult. 



Biggest disappointment: Oklahoma State

A victory at Royal Oaks helped salvage a miserable fall for the Cowboys, who twice finished outside the top 8 in an event as they tried to break in new players. Jordan Niebrugge is back from injury, but Wyndham Clark and Zachary Olsen haven’t yet been able to recapture their form from 2013-14. Fortunately for them, the season is only just beginning. 

Team most likely to rise: Wake Forest

You have to what Jerry Haas has brewing in Winston-Salem. Will Zalatoris, the 2014 U.S. Junior champion, has stepped in and contributed right away, while Danny Guise and David Womble continue to play solidly. This is a team that will contend for titles not just this year, but for the foreseeable future. 


Team most likely to fall: Alabama 

There likely won’t be a three-peat this year for the Crimson Tide. They can still be very competitive with Robby Shelton and Tom Lovelady at the top, but the midseason departure of Gavin Moynihan in the middle of the lineup means ’Bama will have a lot of fresh faces competing against the top teams on the biggest stages. Usually, that spells trouble.


Power Rankings

1. Illinois: From top to bottom, the Illini have the best (and deepest) team in the game.

2. Oregon: Will be interesting to see how they fare against better competition, but the Ducks can only beat the teams they have in front of them – and right now, they’re 44-0-2.

3. Florida State: They lost to only two teams during the fall, and they just so happen to be the host schools (Illinois, Alabama). This team won’t fade.

4. Texas: Figured it would take time to establish a starting five, but the U.S. Collegiate win shows this team’s immense potential.

5. UCLA: Their three fall wins weren’t a fluke – behind Jonathan Garrick, Lorens Chan and a strong supporting cast, this team has title aspirations.

6. LSU: Ben Taylor and Stewart Jolly can send this team into the postseason, but back-end depth remains a question.

7. Vanderbilt: The ’Dores have the best 1-2 punch in the country in Hunter Stewart and Carson Jacobs, and with Matthias Schwab on the mend this group will only get better.

8. South Carolina: The team that returned all five starters has quietly picked up two wins in the fall.

9. Georgia Tech: It helps to have the best player in college golf on the roster, but the Yellow Jackets will only go as far as Nos. 2-5 can take them.

10. Virginia: With the emergence of Derek Bard, the Cavs are poised to take advantage of Denny McCarthy’s last season in Charlottesville. 


Getty Images

Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

Getty Images

Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

Getty Images

Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

Getty Images

Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”