College Review: New teams, players emerging this fall

By Ryan LavnerNovember 6, 2014, 6:46 pm

Each week on, we’ll examine the biggest storylines in college golf. 

Biggest takeaway: Parity reigns this season 

OK, I'll admit it: The last few years have been pretty easy. You could always count on Alabama to produce a championship-caliber team. Same with Cal and Texas. Same with Illinois and Oklahoma State. This season is a little bit more of a guessing game, with 12 teams in Golfstat’s top 25 already earning at least two victories. The parity party was predicted on these pages in early September, but it’s still fun to watch new teams and players emerge as the fall season comes to an end. It makes the NCAA Championship – one of the great events in our entire sport – even more unpredictable. 

Team of the week: Washington (women)

In a top-notch field that included USC, UCLA, Stanford and Arizona, it was the Huskies who staked their claim as the top team in women’s college golf with an 11-shot victory at the Pac-12 Preview. Four Washington players finished inside the top 10 as they earned their third title in four fall starts. The question now: Will the good times continue? Although the Huskies have enjoyed a superb fall campaign, the team could be in store for some major shakeups come springtime, with top player SooBin Kim and freshman Jing Yan both scheduled it to tee it up in next month’s LPGA Q-School finals. Top-20 finishes there likely would compel them to turn pro and thus miss the spring season. 

Player of the week: Fred Wedel, Pepperdine 

The Waves junior won his first career tournament in record fashion this week at the Warrior Princeville Makai Invitational in Hawaii. His 20-under 196 – good for a three-shot win over world No. 1 amateur Ollie Schniederjans and San Diego’s Grant Forrest – set a new 54-hole school record, shattering the mark set by Andrew Putnam (now on the PGA Tour). You can’t help but cheer for this kid. I wrote his story when he made a surprising run at the U.S. Amateur, advancing all the way to the semifinals. Great to see him notch his first W.

Biggest disappointment: USC (women)

Even the best teams have off-weeks, and that appears to have been what happened this week at the Pac-12 Preview. The Trojans, coming off back-to-back wins and playing with their regular starting lineup, could do no better than a tie for fifth in the loaded event in Hawaii. Juniors Kyung Kim and Annie Park were the only players to finish inside the top 20 for USC, which is ranked No. 2 in Golfstat’s rankings.

Keep an eye on: UCLA

Seems our preseason rank (No. 9) was a bit too low for the Bruins, who earned their third title of the season with a come-from-behind victory over crosstown rival USC at the Gifford Collegiate at CordeValle. The team champion was decided by the best five of six scores – not the usual 5-for-4 – and all of the Bruins finished 34th or better, including top-3 showings from Jake Knapp and Lorens Chan. The deepest teams are the ones that win in the postseason, and this was an encouraging sign for UCLA in a field that also included Texas and Stanford.   

What you may have missed: Georgia Tech senior Ollie Schniederjans tied for second in Hawaii. His last 10 college tournaments: four wins, four runners-up, a third and sixth. He finishes the fall with a 68.07 scoring average. …  Speaking of the Yellow Jackets, they cruised to a 15-shot win over Arizona State to capture their second title of the season. Tech’s 55-under 809 (!) was one shot off its record-setting performance here in 2005. … UCLA’s Alison Lee, the reigning Player of the Year on the women’s side, earned her first victory of the season at the Pac-12 Preview. It may prove to be her last event in a Bruins polo – she’s among the favorites to earn her LPGA card next month at Q-School. ... Stanford sophomore Maverick McNealy, one of the early favorites for college player of the year, posted his worst result of the fall season at the Gifford – 21st. He went 1-1-3 in his first three starts. … No. 3 Oregon and 12th-ranked Georgia headline the field at the Ka’anapali Classic, which begins Friday in Hawaii. The Ducks have won all three of their fall starts, but haven’t played since beating a top field at Colonial on Oct. 7.  

In this week’s College Central video …’s Lance Ringler and I discuss the top headlines in the women’s game:

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.