DukeA+What else is there to say about the best team in the country. A perfect fall season - five wins in five events. Dan Brooks has five All-Americans on his team, and things might only get better in the spring.
AuburnB+Three top-3 finishes, including a playoff loss to Duke at The Preview, highlight the Tigers' fall season. Kim Evans' team is young, but impressive and may have a very promising future.
Oklahoma StateBAnother team with two runner-up showings during the fall. Amy Weeks has a team filled with potential, but will need to have Annie Thurman step up and lead this team.
ArizonaBErica Blasberg is as good as any player in the country. But Greg Allen needs more from the 2-5 positions to establish themselves as a contender in the spring season.
FloridaB-Twice a runner up, the Lady Gators have been solid, but not as spectacular as I thought they would be a couple of months ago. Naree Song and Aimee Cho have been reliable, but will need to take it up a notch if they have any chance of chasing down Duke.
GeorgiaTodd McCorkles team finished the fall strong, taking Duke to the limit at The Hooters Collegiate Match Play. Throw in two wins along the way, and I feel this is the second best team in the country.
New MexicoAfter a slow start, this group of upstarts made the most of their opportunities. Three team victories put an exclamation mark on one of the best fall seasons in school history.
FurmanStarted the year unranked in the coaches' poll, but ended it at No. 17. Mic Potter has his team playing with confidence, as he looks to rekindle some of the Paladins' magic of yesteryear.
WashingtonImpressed me greatly at Stanford, as this team went toe-to-toe with Duke for three days. Paige Mackenzie is back from injury, and leading the way for Mary Lou Mulflurs squad.
Need to step it up
Texas.This team is hard to figure out - a lot of talent in Austin, but they dont seem to put it together on a consistent basis. Senior Janice Olivencia needs to take the reigns for the Longhorns.
Southern CalThe defending national champions lost a couple of superstars who helped write last years storybook ending, but the cupboard is not bare at USC. Andrea Gaston now needs her team to believe it.
Ohio StateAt times they show flashes of brilliance; other times I wonder if they doubt their ability. Perhaps a team who could make a legitimate run in the spring.
The best in the country...
Liz Janangelo (Duke)The most explosive player in the womens game.
Erica Blasberg (Arizona)On a mission this year after losing out on player of the year a season ago.
Virada Nirapathpongporn (Duke)The one player you want when its all on the line.
Carolina Llano (Pepperdine)Another of the great sophomores who is always in the hunt.
Allison Hanna (Ohio State)The mainstay of the solid team up in Columbus.
Naree Song (Florida)Finding her way nicely as she adapts to the college game.
Lisa Meldrum (Oklahoma)Often overlooked, but as consistent as there is.
Brittany Lang (Duke) and Nicole Hage (Auburn)A couple of freshman who caught my eye right out of the gate, and show a world of promise in the years to come.
The fall season has come and gone, and like any year there are those who are meeting expectations and some who might be considered underachievers. Whatever the case might be, the spring is shaping up to be another fantastic run for top honors, which will culminate in May in Opelika, Ala. So sit back and enjoy the ride. I know I will.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.