Which bowl game this season features the best mix of great golf courses and the best football teams? Mike Bailey and Brandon Tucker debate.
Tucker: Go Green with Sparty in Tampa for the Outback Bowl
This bowl season, I'm most intrigued by the 'Ain't get no respect' Outback Bowl in Tampa between two conference championship losers: Michigan State and Georgia. Both squads were snubbed out of a BCS appearance in favor of bitter rivals that didn't even make the conference title game: Michigan and Alabama.
So Sparty and Uga should have a chip on their shoulder come January 2nd when they clash at Raymond James Stadium. If you have tickets to this matchup in your holiday plans, come a few days early and book a few tee times. Tampa is one of the best winter golf destinations in the U.S. with a course that fits any budget.
Area golf starts at the 72-hole Innisbrook Golf Resort, the best stay-and-play property in the bay. Plenty of respect is given to the Copperhead Course, a beloved tour stop during the Transitions Championship on the PGA Tour's Florida Swing.
If you're a fan of Tom Fazio golf courses, make the drive an hour north to World Woods for Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks. These are two of the most affordable Fazio courses in existence. GolfNow currently shows tee times for as low as $40. Show up early enough and you could squeeze in all 36.
More area championship golf can be had at the TPC Tampa Bay, which features a tournament-worthy design plus lots of native wildlife in the many ponds and lagoons. Or, play former JCPenney Classic host (where PGA Tour and LPGA golfers used to team up) Bardmoor Country Club, which was renovated in 2003 by Gary Koch.
If you like checking out collegiate golf facilities, take on The Claw at University of South Florida, located just minutes from the Outback Bowl, and be sure your mascot head covers are proudly on display.
Bailey: The Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix-Scottsdale boasts the best football and golf
The most intriguing bowl matchup of this year's college football post season isn't the BCS National Championship game, but the one that features the third and fourth-ranked teams respectively, Oklahoma State University and Stanford. It features two high-powered offenses in what will surely be a touchdown fest (not field goals) at this year's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
The location is also in one of the best winter destinations in the country, especially if you love golf. The Phoenix-Scottsdale area has more than 200 golf courses and most of them are pretty darn good, especially during the cooler months. Nothing against New Orleans, where this year's national championship game gives us a (yawn) rematch of Louisiana State University and Alabama, but neither the game nor the golf locale there are on the level of the Fiesta Bowl and Phoenix-Scottsdale, especially in January.
Take Scottsdale, for example. One of the reasons the courses are so good is the amount of overseeding they go through. In fact, there's so much ryegrass on these fairways that they are really cool-season golf courses, meaning conditioning is better right after New Year's than it is in late spring.
And where do you start, when you start talking about Valley of the Sun golf? On every corner, it seems, there's a Troon North, The Boulders, the TPC Scottsdale or We-Ko-Pa. One of my personal favorites, however, is Southern Dunes, a unique Fred Couples links-style course that's anything but desert golf. The grub alone at Southern Dunes (great chili and meatball soup) is worth the extra half hour out to Maricopa.
But enough of that. After watching the game and playing a whole lotta golf, you'll want a massage, and there is no shortage of resort spas in the area. The Golden Door Spa at The Boulders Waldorf Astoria Resort is extraordinary, for example, and there are plenty others where that came from. Plus, add some great Mexican food, a shot or two of tequila and few hundred sports bars, and you've got the perfect location in January for the football fan and golfer in all of us.