Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll review the main storylines in college golf.
Biggest takeaway: Arizona State is not a one-man show
The Sun Devils’ 3-for-3 start this spring has many observers wondering just how far this team can go. ASU was No. 16 in Golfstat’s latest rankings, and it will only continue to rise after its four-shot win Wednesday at PGA West, which came against a top-notch field that included Oklahoma State, USC, UCLA, Stanford, Washington and Oregon.
By now everyone knows frontman Jon Rahm – the 6-foot-3-inch, ball-mashing junior who recently tied for fifth at the Phoenix Open. (He was T-2 at the Prestige.) But this supporting cast deserves some credit, too. Max Rottluff (T-4) has six top 10s and no finish worse than 19th, while Nicolo Galletti recorded yet another top 25, his third in his last four starts. Coach Tim Mickelson has sent out three different lineups this spring, and each time they’ve returned to campus with a W. “This team is really deep,” he said.
Team of the week: South Florida
The Bulls scored a huge victory earlier this week at the Gator Invitational, knocking off top-5 teams Florida State and Vanderbilt en route to their second team title of the season. Junior Chase Koepka (T-4, pictured) gets much of the attention because of his consistently strong play and his PGA Tour brother, Brooks, but it was a total team effort that led to this win; freshman Claudio Correa earned medalist honors and Trey Valentine racked up a T-11 finish. There is added motivation this year for the 13th-ranked Bulls, who this spring are hosting both the men's and women's NCAA Championship. Host site Concession Golf Club is about an hour from USF's Tampa campus, so this group wants to make sure it is part of the 30-team field.
Player of the week: Maverick McNealy, Stanford
The Cardinal sophomore bolstered his Player of the Year candidacy with his third victory of the season Wednesday at The Prestige. McNealy, already No. 4 in Golfstat's rankings, closed with an 8-under 64 to shoot 15-under 201 and capture medalist honors by four shots. The only other players in school history to win at least three times in a season: Tiger Woods, Patrick Rodgers, Zach Miller and Joel Kribel. McNealy’s 64 fueled Stanford’s final-round, 20-under 268, which tied the lowest round in program history. The Cardinal finished second in the team race at PGA West.
Biggest disappointment: Oregon
Yes, the Ducks were missing No. 1 man Brandon McIver – he played in the Northern Trust Open Collegiate Showcase at Riviera – but they still finished 13th in the 14-team field at PGA West. (USC and UCLA struggled without their top players, as well.) Head coach Casey Martin called it a “disaster,” and for good reason. No Oregon player finished under par for the 54-hole event or inside the top 30 on the leaderboard. Keep in mind the Ducks were a top-three program coming out of the fall, after wins in each of their first four events.
At least the whole week wasn’t a bust: Martin and two amateurs won the best-ball portion of the Collegiate Showcase competition, earning a $50,000 donation to the program.
Keep an eye on: Oklahoma State’s Kristoffer Ventura
The Cowboys were the preseason No. 1 on the strength of players such as Wyndham Clark, Jordan Niebrugge and Zach Olsen, who led OSU to the NCAA finals a year ago. Turns out this year’s difference-maker might be Ventura, a freshman, whose ninth-place finish at PGA West was his fourth top 15 in as many starts. The Norwegian has loads of match-play experience from his junior days and clearly has transitioned well to the college game. Now, it is Ventura’s more heralded teammates who must pick up the slack.
What you may have missed: One of the best stories in college golf is what’s happening with the Furman women’s team. Earlier this week the Paladins shot the best round in program history (281) to steal the Florida State Match-Up, which featured No. 1 South Carolina and ninth-ranked Mississippi State. It was Furman’s third win of the season – remarkable, because prior to this year the Paladins hadn’t won a team title since 2009. The last time they won three in a single season: 1987, when they finished one shot shy of the NCAA title. ... If you missed my long feature on Illinois' rise to No. 1, you can find it here.
And finally, this week's College Central, where we discuss Wake Forest freshman Will Zalatoris' spot start at Riviera . . .