The Ping/Golfweek Preview is in the books, and that means college golf is officially in full swing. Congratulations are in order for the Florida Gators for winning the team portion. Billy Horschel, a Florida Gator sophomore, shot a final-round 63 to take home the individual honors as well. There goes my original prediction of Florida being young and untested.
The Ping/Golfweek Preview was the biggest tournament so far this season, but it wasn't the only one. Southern California won the Inverness Intercollegiate tournament in mid-September, Alabama won the Carpet Capital Challenge, and Duke won the Fighting Illini Classic in impressive fashion.
These teams undoubtedly improved their ranking. On the other side of things, there were a handful of schools that didn't play so well over the past month. Their ranking dropped significantly. I've put together a list featuring the top-20 teams and top-10 players in the country. If you have anything to add to the lists, feel free to comment below or discuss it in the forum.
The Sand Trap Top 20 (Teams)
1. Florida (8th Last Month)
The Florida Gators have played in three of the biggest tournaments so far this fall, and they have come away with three top-five finishes. These finishes include a third at the Inverness Invitational, a tie for fifth at the Carpet Capital Challenge, and a win at this week's Ping/Golfweek Preview. The Ping/Golfweek Preview is arguably the biggest tournament of the fall season. The Gators took care of business and earned the top spot in this month's rankings.
2. Oklahoma State (1st Last Month)
The defending champions started a little sluggish by finishing fifth at Olympia Fields in the Fighting Illini Classic. They bounced back this week and finished second in the Ping/Golfweek Preview. Pablo Martin has played well, but Jonathan Moore hasn't found his top form quite yet. The Cowboys will need Moore at his best to stay near the top.
3. Georgia (3rd Last Month)
Like Florida, the Georgia Bulldogs have played in three tough tournaments this season. They have also finished in the top five in each like their Gator counterparts. They haven't won one yet, but they have been very steady. The high finishes include a fifth at the Inverness Invitational, a tie for third at the Carpet Capital Challenge, and a fifth-place finish at the Ping/Golfweek Preview.
4. Clemson (2nd Last Month)
The Clemson Tigers haven't played bad this fall, but they did get passed by a couple hotter teams. The Tigers have gotten steady play from Ben Martin and freshman phenom Kyle Stanley. They have a second-place finish at the Carpet Capital Challenge and a tie for seventh at the Ping/Golfweek Preview to show for their efforts so far.
5. UCLA (4th Last Month)
The Bruins have only played one tournament this fall, but they did all that was asked of them. They outplayed the field at the Husky Invitational and are one-for-one in the win column. The next month will be a little busier for UCLA, and we will get to see if they can maintain their momentum.
6. USC (13th Last Month)
Like UCLA, USC is one-for-one in wins this season. The Trojans win came in the Inverness Invitational which boasted one of the strongest fields of the season so far. Freshman standout Jamie Lovemark finished third in the event and is well on his way to becoming the player everyone expected him to be out of high school.
7. Georgia Tech (5th Last Month)
My pick to win the 2006-2007 National Championship has gotten off to a slower start than I expected, but they have still played respectable. They have played in three strong tournaments and finished in the top 10 in all of them. Their top players haven't been very consistent, and the Yellow Jackets will keep sliding down the list if that doesn't change. Their most recent finish was a tie for ninth at the Ping/Golfweek Preview.
8. Lamar (6th Last Month)
Lamar has a new coach this season, but they are still finishing strong in big tournaments. They finished fifth at the Gopher Invitational and tied for seventh at the Ping/Golfweek Preview. Preseason All-American, Dawie Van Der Walt, finished strong (T-11) at the Ping/Golfweek Preview after starting slow. The Cardinal have yet to play their best golf, so things should go up from here.
9. Alabama (Unranked Last Month)
Two tournaments and two victories. That's about all you can ask for as a coach, and that's exactly what the Crimson Tide have done so far this season. The first victory came at the Carpet Capital Challenge, with the second coming at the Shoal Creek Intercollegiate last week. Alabama wasn't on my preseason top 20, but they made a huge move into the top 10 after the first month of the season. Keep an eye out for the Tide!
10. UNLV (11th Last Month)
The Runnin Rebels haven't been spectacular, but they have been consistent. They have two sixth-place finishes along with a fourth-place finish at the Ping/Golfweek Preview. Jared Texter and Ryan Keeney have been good at times, but they haven't been good at the same time. UNLV counted on Seung-Su-Han to play great, but he has struggled mightily so far. If he regains his form from the summer, the Runnin Rebels will be greatly improved.
11. Texas A&M (14th Last Month)
Texas A&M has been busy over the past month. They started the season at St. Andrews and finished fifth out of seven teams in the International Collegiate. The Aggies also finished seventh at the Inverness Invitational and fourth at the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate. It seems they have finally rounded into form after a third-place finish at the stacked Ping/Golfweek Preview this week.
12. Arizona State (Unranked Last Month)
The Sun Devils weren't in my preseason top 20, but they have made a big move out of the gates. Arizona State finished seventh at the Fighting Illini Classic last month and sixth at the Ping/Golfweek Preview. Niklas Lemke has been spectacular, and the team will be in great shape if another player or two steps up and matches his play.
13. BYU (9th Last Month)
The Cougars started off their season by finishing second at the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate. The tournament isn't a star-studded event, but it's a solid one nonetheless. BYU took a step back after finishing in a tie for 12th at the Ping/Golfweek Preview. The Cougars top returner, Jake Ellison, hasn't played very good, and the results mirror his performance.
14. Duke (19th Last Month)
The Blue Devils started slow by finishing 13th at the Carpet Capital Challenge. They bounced back in a big way by winning the Fighting Illini Classic. The field at Olympia Fields included Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, and Arizona State. Duke seems to be coming together after a sluggish start, and they may have found a rising star in Adam Long (finished second individually at Fighting Illini Classic).
15. Coastal Carolina (20th Last Month)
The Chanticleers have gone about their business quietly, but they have racked up two top-four finishes in the process. Coastal Carolina started the season off by finishing third at St. Andrews, and they followed that up with a fourth-place finish at the Inverness Invitational. As long as Dustin Johnson keeps playing well, the Chanticleers will have a chance to win any tournament they play.
16. Wake Forest (7th Last Month)
The Demon Deacons took a plunge in this month's rankings. They started the season by finishing second at St. Andrews, but things got worse from there. Wake Forest has a couple 11th-place finishes, one at the Carpet Capital Challenge and the other at the Ping/Golfweek Preview. My preseason player of the year, Webb Simpson, started slowly but is starting to pick things up (T-11 individually at Ping/Golfweek Preview). The Deacons will need him at his best to move back up the rankings.
17. Stanford (Unranked Last Month)
Stanford finds themselves in The Sand Trap top 20 for the first time in the 2006-2007 season. The Cardinal finished second in the Fighting Illini Classic to start their season. Things only improved, however, as they went on to win the Gopher Invitational. Stanford hasn't consistently gone up against the best of the best yet, but they are off to a great start!
18. North Carolina (18th Last Month)
North Carolina has only played once so far, but they were the top dog at St. Andrews to open the season. The verdict is still out on the Tarheels, but they have done all they can do so far. It will be interesting to see how they have improved after a month-long layoff from competition.
19. Kentucky (15th Last Month)
Like North Carolina, Kentucky hasn't been very active this fall either. Their only real tournament so far was the Ping/Golfweek Preview where they finished in a tie for ninth. A lot of big things are expected from the Wildcats golf team, but they will have to improve on their only finish this season to stay in the rankings.
20. Louisville (Unranked Last Month)
Louisville hasn't played in any huge tournaments so far, but three wins in three tournaments is out of this world! I don't care where they are playing, three wins this early is outstanding! The Cardinals have undoubtedly been the season's biggest surprise so far, but how will they withstand the added pressure and hype that comes with a national ranking? That will be key.
On the bubble: East Tennessee State, Minnesota, Washington, Tennessee, Georgia State.
The Sand Trap Top 10 (Players)
1. Billy Horschel (Florida)
Billy Horschel shot a 60 on the first day of the U.S. Amateur earlier this summer, and I wondered if he would maintain his great play going into the college golf season. Horschel definitely maintained his momentum and has three top-six finishes in three starts to show for it. The Gator sophomore took home the individual honors in the Ping/Golfweek Preview after firing a final-round 63!
2. Niklas Lemke (Arizona State)
Niklas Lemke could easily be ranked first on this list, but he has one less tournament than Horschel. Lemke won the individual honors at the Fighting Illini Classic and finished in a tie for third at the Ping/Golfweek Preview. I knew this guy was good, but he has already exceeded expectations this season. He looks like a sure-fire All American.
3. Pablo Martin (Oklahoma State)
The 2005-2006 player of the year has started out in typical fashion. Martin finished in a tie for third at the Fighting Illini Classic and a tie for seventh at the Ping/Golfweek Preview. The fact he had the lead at the Ping/Golfweek Preview going into the final round before shooting a 73 and falling six spots worries me a little. Recent history tells me he will be ok, however.
4. Manuel Villegas (Florida)
The younger brother of Camilo is showing how talented he is as well. Villegas was counted on to produce early and often for the Gators, and he has been their second-best player all season. The youngster has three top-11 finishes, including a second at Inverness and a sixth at the Ping/Golfweek Preview. His future is very bright!
5. Dustin Johnson (Coastal Carolina)
Just like his team, Dustin Johnson has been very quiet yet effective this season. Johnson won the individual play at St. Andrews, and he followed that up with a fourth-place finish at Inverness. This guy is as solid as they come, and he will probably be on this list all year.
6. Daniel Summerhays (BYU)
Daniel Summerhays has carried the Cougars so far this season, but he probably wouldn't be on this list if it weren't for a final-round 60 at the Ping/Golfweek Preview. The 60 tied the all-time college golf record for lowest round ever. Summerhays rose from a tie for 53rd going into the final round to a tie for seventh when the dust had settled. He also finished fifth individually at the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate.
7. Brian Harman (Georgia)
Brian Harman doesn't have a tournament win like his fellow Bulldog, Chris Kirk. Harman has been far more consistent though and deserves a spot in the top 10. The sophomore standout tied for 19th at Inverness, but he also has a fifth-place finish and a second-place finish to his name. The runner-up finish was at the Ping/Golfweek Preview which makes it that much more impressive.
8. Alex Prugh (Washington)
The Huskies have struggled as a team this season, but Alex Prugh has gone about his business as usual. Prugh tied for third at the Husky Invitational and tied for 11th at the Ping/Golfweek Preview. He has done his part and is well on his way to an All-American season.
9. Derek Fathauer (Lousville)
Derek Fathauer is the number-one reason Louisville has turned so many heads this fall. Fathauer has finished in the top five in all three tournaments this season, including a victory a the Rich Harvest Farms Intercollegiate. I didn't know who he was before the season started, but I do now.
10. Dan Woltman (Wisconsin)
After Louisville, the Wisconsin Badgers have been the biggest surprise of the season. The Badgers have a couple wins as a team, and Dan Woltman is the main reason for that success. Woltman has three top-eight finishes along with a T-15 finish. One of those top-eight finishes happened to be a win (Mattaponi Springs Shootout).
On the bubble: Jamie Lovemark (USC), Ben Martin (Clemson), Gator Todd (Alabama), Adam Long (Duke), Rhys Davies (ETSU).