2015-16 College Preview: Top 10 men's teams

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 9, 2015, 2:00 pm

1. Texas: Like last year, this team is an embarrassment of riches, talent-wise, beginning at the top of the lineup with Walker Cupper Beau Hossler and NCAA Freshman of the Year Scottie Scheffler. If the Longhorns stay together through the spring, they should be the No. 1 challenger for another national title.

2. Illinois: With Thomas Detry, Charlie Danielson and breakout candidate Nick Hardy leading the way, there’s a lot to like about arguably the strongest lineup in college golf. It’d be a surprise if the Illini aren’t among the last teams standing at NCAAs. 

3. LSU: Lost two key seniors to graduation and standout junior Brandon Pierce is still recovering from a broken neck, but the Tigers “rebuilt” with No. 1-ranked recruit Sam Burns and two other highly regarded newcomers.   

4. Florida State: Returning all five starters from a year ago, the Seminoles have the potential to go all the way if junior Jack Maguire takes the final step to stardom.  

5. UCLA: The Bruins’ trio of seniors (Jonathan Garrick, Jake Knapp, Lorens Chan) have more than enough firepower to push the Bruins into NCAA match play. If they get a little help from the inexperienced back end, look out.   

2015-16 College Preview: LSU enjoys view from the top | Top 10 men's players

6. USC: The Trojans’ appearance in the finals wasn’t a fluke. Sean Crocker seems poised to capitalize on his strong freshman campaign (and semifinal run at the U.S. Amateur), and junior Rico Hoey and sophomore Jonah Texeira will only get better in Year 2 together.   

7. Auburn: Quietly, the Tigers have assembled one of the country’s deepest lineups, with four returnees who were ranked inside the top 110 a year ago. This is a group that can win four or five events this season.    

8. Arizona State: New season, old question: After Jon Rahm and Max Rottluff – who are talented enough to carry this team to another high ranking – who else will step up for the Sun Devils? Their NCAA run depends on it. 

9. South Carolina: Former top-ranked junior Matt NeSmith is starting to realize his awesome potential, and he could – or should – have been a U.S. Walker Cupper this fall. Now he leads a trio of Gamecock seniors who will look to build on last year’s school-record, five-win campaign. 

10. South Florida: The Bulls won’t surprise anyone this season. After five wins in 2014-15, and with the team’s core (Chase Koepka, Rigel Fernandes and Claudio Correa) still intact, expectations are even higher in Steve Bradley’s second year at the helm.

ALSO KEEP AN EYE ON: Alabama, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Stanford, Wake Forest

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.