Tuesday, May 13, 2008

111th Annual Division 1 Men's Golf Championships: Central Regional Preview

The Central Regional in the 2008 NCAA D1 Golf Championships gets off Thursday at The Ohio State University's Scarlet Course in Columbus, OH. The Scarlet Course is widely considered to be the best collegiate facility and course in the nation, designed in part by Alister McKenzie (who also designed a decent course along Washington Road in Augusta), with a recent restoration headed up by none other than Buckeye legend Jack Nicklaus.

The Central boasts the strongest field of the 3 Regionals, with 4 of the nation's Top 8 teams. This region is also chock full of probable future PGA Tour stars, with a potential first round threesome of Oklahoma State's Rickie Fowler (Golfweek's #1 ranked player), Alabama's Michael Thompson (#2), and Wake Forest's Webb Simpson (#6) that should get the biggest gallery of the weekend.

Alabama is the #1 seed, and deservedly so. The Tide won 5 team titles in the regular season (never finishing worse than 4th), as well as an SEC Championship. They'll roll out as strong a Top 4 as anyone in the country with the exception of Georgia, but they'll need those 4 to perform as usual to beat the field in Columbus. Bama's top player is Thompson, last year's US Amateur runner-up, and a participant in this year's Masters, where he called a penalty on himself, which most likely cost him a good chance to finish as Low Amateur.

No team in college golf sends more players to the PGA Tour than Oklahoma State, and this year's Cowboy roster should be no exception, although this year's group is very young. Fowler, a freshman, is the consensus top collegiate golfer in America, bringing to Stillwater one of the most decorated junior careers in golf history (even if he didn't bring a pair of scissors.) The Cowboys have had their disappointing moments this season, but have been as strong as you'd expect in recent weeks, finishing 2nd, 2nd, 1st and 1st (Big 12 tournament) in its last 4 outings.

Florida has a deep, veteran squad that has mostly underperformed (at least by Gator standards) all year long. Traditional powers Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, as well as host Ohio State are also in the field this weekend in Columbus.

I'm calling a Florida victory in the Regional. Just a hunch that the Gators get it all together just in time for the Finals.

Central Region Predictions (top 10 teams advance to Finals):

1) Florida: Two (soon to be three) time All American Billy Horschel is playing in his 3rd NCAA Tournament (T35, T10.) Gators have all the talent and experience required.

2) Oklahoma State: Young team has gained experience throughout the year, and the Cowboys are now peaking at just the right time.

3) Alabama: #1 seed will cruise toward finals, where they will likely be the overall favorite.

4) Georgia Tech: Yellow Jackets haven't played well since T3 at Brickyard Collegiate in October.

5) Tennessee: Vols play better the further they are from Knoxville (2nd at USC Collegiate Invitational, 1st at Ping Arizona Intercollegiate, 1st at Turtle Bay Hawaii.)

6) Wake Forest: Deacs won 1975 NCAA Tournament on Scarlet Course. Senior Webb Simpson playing in 4th NCAA tournament.

7) Indiana: three straight tournament medalist titles for junior Jorge Campillo, including Big Ten Championship.

8) Texas A&M: beat Oklahoma State by 26 strokes at Barona Collegiate Cup in March, but lost by 37 to Cowboys in Big 12 Championship in April.

9) Kent State
10) Lamar

11) Louisville
12) Michigan
13) Wichita State
14) Arkansas
15) Penn State
16) Ohio State
17) Illinois
18) Eastern Kentucky
19) Loyola (Md.)
20) Baylor
21) Marquette
22) Eastern Michigan
23) Colorado
24) Cleveland State
25) TCU
26) UT-Arlington
27) Sacred Heart

Sleeper: Michigan

Individual Medalist: Rickie Fowler, Oklahoma State

Wednesday: West Regional preview

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