The Stanford campus looks big enough for two national title contenders in college golf.
Two weeks after the NCAA reigning champion Cardinal opened her fall by winning the Carmel Cup in Pebble Beach, the Stanford men followed suit Sunday south of Chicago. Led by Michael Thorbjornsen, the college’s first singles win, the Cardinal won the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational by 12 shots over Florida and hosts Illinois.
Stanford was the only team on the loaded field to finish the under-level 9 race, placing four of the five players inside the 12th place. The statement win marked the team’s first win since last fall when the Cardinal topped a similarly stout field at Colonial. .
Here are five notes from Olympia Fields after the conclusion of one of the main events of the regular season on the men’s calendar:
1. Thor drops the hammer – finally
Michael Thorbjornsen has become a fixture on the summer amateur circuit, winning last year’s Western Amateur and even creating fanfare in the Pro events this past June by qualifying for the US Open and finishing fourth on the PGA Tour Travelers Championship. But the fifth-ranked player in the amateur golf rankings also failed to dominate in the same college-level segment during his first two years in Palo Alto, California. He wasn’t in the top ten as a freshman, and while he was a runner-up to the All-American last season and scored six in the top 10, he didn’t win.
Now, after rounds of 67-70-66 at a major championship venue–his last round included four birds in his last eight holes–Thorbjornsen has finally broken through the college winner’s circuit.
So what’s next? More wins likely. And with Thor amassing titles, this Stanford lineup looks like a squad capable of making some serious post-season hype.
Karl Phelps tied for sixth and appears to have recovered from that slashing blow in the US amateur game last month. Share Barclay Brown 12The tenth And he showed again why he was a Walker Cooper last year. Finally, a fifth-year student, Ethan Ng, had the second top 10 of his college career, a T-9.
If Stanford head coach Konrad Ray can get at least one performance outside of his top 3 teams in every tournament, they can beat anyone as they did this week in outsmarting 11 teams in the top 30 pre-season, including six of the top three. 10 teams.
2. The squiggles are the real deal
JC Deacon has had some talented teams as head coach for Florida. This is his best.
After winning his season opener at Notre Dame, the Gators played the last six tough holes at Olympia Fields on an equal footing as Sunday climbed two spots to a share of second place with Illinois. Ricky Castillo, who has battled bouts of inconsistency over the past two years, was his classic self, making only six bogeys in the entire tournament and tied for second place apart at 6-under, a shot behind Thorbjornsen.
Castillo’s performance shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as he tends to play well on really tough golf courses, but as his T-48 show at Notre Dame proves, he still has some work to do on the mental side to make the most of the days when he doesn’t have His best.
If Florida gets Castillo this week for the rest of the way, sign them up to actually play the game because Fred Biondi and Yuxin Lynn are champions, John Dubois showed big flashes and Quentin DeBoeuf quickly distances himself from the rest of the Gators chasing a place in this talented squad.
3. Sun demons after the fine spore
After losing its star player, David Puig, to LIV Golf before the start of fall, Arizona State could have easily struggled out of the gates. But the Sun Devils did the opposite. Sure, this is a program that is out of the national runner-up, and at least before Puig became a professional, he was expected to win almost every time. But the start of the second and fourth new seasons is impressive considering the fields.
While I expected more than zero out of the top 10 players from the trio of Preston Summerhayes, Luke Potter and Jose Ballester, I have no doubt that these guys will soon find their grooves.
What I wasn’t anticipating was the start of MVP of the Year by senior Riggs Johnston, who tops the top 5 in a row after a nightmare junior campaign where he made one of the top 20 and left it. Off the postseason lineup of six men from the Devils of the Sun.
If Johnston maintains that resurgence, there’s a lot to love about Arizona entering the third and final NCAA Championships at Grayhawk.
4. Bama answers the bell
As fall came, I was ahead of Alabama, the program that finished last season at No. 49 and didn’t qualify for the Regionals due to the .500 rule. So much so that I hit the tide until No. 22 to start the season. But I actually qualified that confidence was based on the junior trio of Canon Claycomb, Thomas Ponder and JP Cave playing better golf than they did collectively a season ago.
I think they were paying attention.
Although Cave didn’t break the line-up, Claycomb won the team’s opening game, the Rod Myers Invitational, and through two events, he and Ponder earned nearly as much in the top ten (four) as the trio did last season (five). And as a team, Alabama went to fifth, the latter of which was, at least in my opinion, more impressive because it came in at Olympia Fields.
5. More cause for concern?
NCAA champions Texas started their season with 10The tenth– The place of completion. The Longhorns were one of North Carolina’s #1 best pre-season, which ranked 11The tenth. Pepperdine was two points behind, as he shot 34 shots, worse than Stanford by 43 shots.
So, which of these three pre-season top 15 teams am I most concerned about at this point?
Well, let’s start with the tar heels. They finished third in Florida at Notre Dame without Austin Greiser. Greaser returned to Olympia Fields and led the team in a T-20. Unfortunately, David Ford, after losing a playoff two weeks ago, was a T-50, one of three UNC players at T-43 or worse. I think the expectations come to this team early on, but they’re too good to realize it in time for the important part of the season.
Leading Texas State’s notable first student Christian Maas, who tied for 20 yearsThe tenth. Everyone else, for the most part, wasn’t having the best of it. I don’t see Travis Vick deploying another T-31 again, and the other freshmen are gaining valuable experience right now. This group will be in the top 10 by April.
That leaves us with Pepperdine. I was worried about the back end of the Waves lineup before this week, and I’d still be like transfers Luke Gifford and Roberto Nieves together to shoot a better than 75 only twice in six rounds. Sam Choi will at least be a third player on the All-American this season, but I’m not sure about William Mouw now after the T-60.
Mouw has all the talent in the world, but he has failed to consistently show it to us. Pepperdine needs William Mouw from last spring (six of the top 13 in a row to cover the season) if he wants to get back to match play. Otherwise, Waves might find it hard to hit a return ticket to Grayhawk.