Southern Highlands a de facto NCAA preview

By Ryan LavnerMarch 6, 2014, 4:33 pm

There was not an official NCAA Preview last fall at Prairie Dunes.

No matter.

This weekend’s Southern Highlands Collegiate should help identify which teams are trending upward as we reach the final leg of the 2013-14 college season. Consider it a de facto NCAA preview.

Eight of the top 15 teams in the country – including each of the top 5 (Alabama, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, California and Georgia) – will tee it up in Las Vegas in the strongest regular-season field of the year.

What’s more, 10 of the top 12 players in Golfstat’s individual rankings (including No. 1 Joey Garber, No. 2 Robby Shelton and No. 3 Brandon Hagy) will compete at Southern Highlands. 

“To have so many top teams and players get together on a good golf course, it’s great to stack them up and see where they stand,” said Stanford coach Conrad Ray. “It’s a really high-quality event with all the big teams there.”

Here’s a quick primer on the three-day event, which begins Friday:


• This is Alabama’s first start since it lost to Houston earlier this week in Cabo. That runner-up finish – against a field that did not feature a single other top-10 team – stopped the Tide’s 11-event win streak and showed the rest of the country that they could be beaten if not on their A-game.

• Cal lost one of its best players, Michael Kim, to the pros during the winter, but the Golden Bears have won each of their two starts this spring. They’re the defending champions at this event, and another victory here would send a message that they’ll still be one of the teams to beat at NCAAs. Senior Brandon Hagy has asserted himself as one of the best players in the game – he has yet to finish worse than eighth in seven starts this season – while junior Joel Stalter has a pair of wins and two other top 5s in his last four appearances.

• Can a team with four consecutive wins still be underrated? We will find out this week with second-ranked Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have notched a few big-time victories this season, but another title here would move them out from Alabama’s considerable shadow.


• On paper, at least, it seems like Stanford should win nearly every time it tees it up. The Cardinal have junior Patrick Rodgers, a two-time All-American who announced this week that he would turn pro after NCAAs; Cameron Wilson, a crafty left-hander who has surged to No. 3 in the country; Viraat Badhwar, the 2013 Australian Masters of the Amateurs champion; David Boote, a decorated amateur player in England; and Jim Liu, a former U.S. Junior champion. Stanford has struggled with week-in, week-out consistency, but when all of the pieces come together, this group will be dangerous.


Not always. Let’s take a look back at the team and individual champions here since 2009, the first year that the NCAA Championship implemented match play. 

2013: Cal won by double digits, but that wasn’t surprising since it won 11 of 13 events a year ago. The top 3 teams at the Southern Highlands all eventually advanced to match play at the NCAA Championship, including NCAA champion Alabama, which tied for second here. Individual winner: Patrick Rodgers, Stanford. 

2012: UNLV swept both the team and individual titles, though that didn’t help the Rebels much come postseason time. They failed to even advance past NCAA regionals, while Texas (sixth at Southern Highlands) and Alabama (T-9) eventually got the last laugh. Individual winner: Blake Biddle, UNLV.

2011: Oklahoma State had both the team and individual champion in Las Vegas, and the Cowboys eventually reached the semifinals of the NCAA Championship. Georgia, meanwhile, tied for sixth at Southern Highlands but advanced to the NCAA finals. Individual winner: Morgan Hoffmann, Oklahoma State 

2010: Host UNLV and UCLA shared the team title at Southern Highlands, but that didn’t help either school when it came to NCAAs – they both didn’t advance to match play, and neither did the teams that finished third and fourth, respectively, in Vegas, USC and Texas A&M. Oklahoma State finished 11th at Southern Highlands and eventually lost in the NCAA finals. Individual winner: Jesper Kennegard, Arizona State

2009: Since 2002, when the event was moved to Southern Highlands, UNLV has won the title outright five times and tied another (2010). This was another one of those victories, though the Rebels failed to even make the cut at NCAA regionals. The team that won the NCAA title that year, Texas A&M, was 11th in Vegas. Individual winner: Cameron Tringale, Georgia Tech


The best team doesn’t always win here, as we just highlighted, so let’s go with third-ranked Georgia Tech. Making their first start in this event since 2011, the Yellow Jackets have won or finished second in five of their six starts this season, and they’re solid (and experienced) all the way down their lineup. Individually, it’s hard to look past Alabama super-freshman Robby Shelton, who has four top 5s in six starts, but there hasn’t been a first-time winner here in the past several years. So here’s predicting a Patrick Rodgers repeat. With the clock ticking on his college career, he’s ultra-motivated to hunt down Tiger Woods’ school record of 11 wins. 

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry