The Division I Men's NCAA Golf Championship starts today, and it's time for a few predictions. The event will be played at Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex in West Lafayette, Indiana. There were three separate regionals a couple weeks back, and the top 10 teams from each advanced to the NCAA Championship. In addition, six individual golfers (their teams didn't advance) will be battling the rest of the field for individual supremacy.
Which teams and individuals have what it takes to win an NCAA Championship this season? Keep reading to find out.
The Trojans received the top seed in the NCAA Championship, and they have all the talent to back it up. Coming off a two-shot victory in the West Regional a couple weeks ago, USC will be very confident. They are led by sensational sophomores Jamie Lovemark and Rory Hie. Lovemark and Hie are ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, by Golfweek. Freshmen Matthew Giles and Tim Sluiter will join junior Tom Glissmeyer to make up the remaining three spots on the team.
The Bulldogs are ranked number one by many, but they are the number-two seed this week. Georgia won the East Regional by 21 shots, and it's obvious they are playing very well right now. The Bulldogs are led by junior Adam Mitchell and freshman Russell Henley. The three remaining golfers are junior Brian Harman, sophomore Hudson Swafford, and freshman Harris English. Georgia will be looking for their third national title in the last 10 years.
The Demon Deacons are ranked 17th by Golfweek, but they received the number-three seed for the NCAA Championship. The team is coming off a win in the Central Regional. Wake Forest is led by senior Webb Simpson who is ranked eighth in the nation. Sophomore Brendan Gielow is the only other top-100 golfer on the team, but the entire squad comes in on an emotional high. The rest of the team includes senior Chris McCartin, junior Dustin Groves, and sophomore Travis Wadkins (son of Lanny Wadkins).
Alabama has six wins and have been near the top of the rankings all season. However, they aren't coming in on a high note. The Crimson Tide won the SEC Championship last month, but they struggled to a sixth-place finish in the Central Regional. Michael Thompson, most famous for his appearance at this year's Masters, is one of the nation's best and should play well. The Tide will finish in the top half, but they won't be anywhere near the lead. That will be considered a disappointment for this team.
The Bruins have been a top-five team most of the season and have as much talent as any team in the nation. They struggled a little late in the season, finishing fourth in the Pac-10 Championship and fifth in the West Regional. That may not seem like a disappointment, but it is considering their talent and potential. The struggle for consistency will continue this week as well. UCLA is led by senior Kevin Chappell and junior Erik Flores.
The 49ers' name has been mentioned as a potential team to keep an eye on this week, but they actually belong in this section. They won the Atlantic 10 Championship last month, but they have had some shaky finishes in recent months. These finishes include a seventh in the East Regional a couple weeks back. Charlotte has been a little up-and-down this semester, so it's tough to really know which team will show up. In the end, their inconsistency leaves them on the wrong side of the cut line. The team is led by senior Jonas Enander Hedin.
Casey Martin has his Ducks playing well at the right time of the season. The team finished second in the West Regional, and senior Joey Benedetti won individual honors in the process. Oregon has been a little shaky at times this season, and they can be either really good or really bad. They come in on a small hot streak though, and they can be a force to be reckoned with.
The Jaguars had a rocky start to the spring semester, but they have carded top-three finishes in their last three events. That includes a second-place finish in the East Regional. Augusta State comes in playing well and could shake things up at the top of the leaderboard. They are led by a couple of top-100 golfers in freshman Henrik Norlander and senior Keith Guest. Keep an eye on the Jaguars.
The Longhorns barely escaped the West Regional to earn their bid to the NCAA Championship. They have played very well the last month or so, however, finishing first at the Morris Williams Intercollegiate and second in the Big 12 Championship. Sophomore Charlie Holland is a top-20 golfer, and freshman Bobby Hudson is a top-75 golfer. While Texas may be a year away from legitimately competing for a national title, they have what it takes to stir things up this time around as well.
There are numerous individuals capable of winning individual honors this week, but here are several to keep an eye on. The first three are Alabama senior Michael Thompson, USC sophomore Jamie Lovemark, and Wake Forest senior Webb Simpson. These golfers are very talented and will be a cut above the rest this week. Thompson's team may not finish as well as expected, but he should be in the running for the individual title when all is said and done. Lovemark and Simpson, on the other hand, will be in contention for both titles.
The next few guys worth mentioning include Oklahoma State freshman Rickie Fowler, Georgia State senior Joel Sjoholm, and East Tennessee State senior Gareth Shaw. Fowler won the Ben Hogan award this season but struggled a little in the Central Regional. Don't expect two bad performances in a row from the young gun. Sjoholm and Shaw have both been around awhile and know what it takes to get things done on the big stage. All three listed here have what it takes to go really low on any given week.
The Final Say
College golf doesn't get near the notiriety and respect it deserves, but that's just the nature of the beast. I'm still very excited for this year's NCAA Championship, and I'll be keeping up with the live scoring at Golfstat.com. I'll be pulling for Oklahoma State as always, but they don't have quite enough this season to win it all.
Stanford won the national title last season, and the title will once again stay in the Pac-10 Conference this year. This time, however, Southern California will be hoisting the trophy as national champs. They will beat out Georgia, Wake Forest, Oklahoma State, and a host of others to claim the school's first-ever Men's NCAA Golf Championship. As for individual honors, Alabama's Michael Thompson gets the nod. It will be a tough battle as always, but Thompson has all the tools to be the top individual.
Now it's your turn to tell me what you think about this week's NCAA Championship. Which team will hoist the trophy on Saturday? Also, which golfer will beat all the others to claim the individual trophy? Finally, which teams will disappoint this week? If you have anything to add, please comment below or discuss it in the forum. Thanks for reading and enjoy the NCAA Championship.