SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Here we go again. For 16 teams it’s a return trip to Grayhawk Golf Club for the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship.
For me, it’s a return trip as well and championship No. 22.
Typically, in this NCAA championship preview I would discuss what may have happened up to this point in the season and what we might expect over the six days here in the desert.
Let’s do something different.
Rather than what has happened and what we might see, let’s talk about what would be must-see golf or what I want to see.
Before I dive into my inner thoughts, let’s be sure to understand that when talking about the NCAA finals that we understand that the championship truly is two tournaments. Seventy-two holes of stroke play to decide who gets the opportunity to play in the other tournament: match play.
What do we know about stroke play?
We know that prior to last year no team ranked worse than third had won the right to be the No. 1 seed. Think about that. How good is stroke play in identifying the best? The first 11 years of this format the winner of stroke play was never ranked worse than third. And eight of those 11 years it was the No. 1 team claiming the No. 1 seed.
Last year 10th-ranked Arizona State snapped that streak by being the best after four rounds and earning the No. 1 seed.
Now, the other tournament which begins on Tuesday with the top eight teams after 72 holes going head-to-head in match play. The No. 1 seed has won just once. That was Oklahoma State in 2018. On two other occasions the top team in college golf has won – Texas (2012) and Alabama (2014) – but not as the No. 1 seed.
Now that we all understand how this usually works, with the very best of the best winning stroke play and then might as well flip a coin to finish the week, here is what I want to see.
First, in stroke play. How about someone other than No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 Vanderbilt or No. 3 Oklahoma State finishing at the top on Monday afternoon?
You know what would create some buzz? Arizona winning the top seed. After the Wildcats won the NCAA Bryan Regional, another stroke-play win here in Scottsdale for the Tucson team would be must-see golf.
Individually, how about a playoff? Involving any players. Determining an NCAA Championship title in a playoff is always worth watching.
Now, we end with the real fun: Match play. Here are ten matchups I would like to watch, preferably in the finals, but along the way to the finals would be just fine, as well.
North Florida vs. Florida … Just something about this one with the winner advancing would catch my eye.
Kansas vs. East Tennessee State … Maybe this would not be what many would want, but this is my list. Good storyline here with two really good golf coaches who have done really good jobs at their school.
Arkansas vs. Oklahoma … In my opinion these are two of the most intense college golf coaches and this match-up would have that vibe from the moment they got in the van that morning.
Georgia Tech vs. Georgia … Clean, old fashion hate is what describes this rivalry. Not that the golf teams really hate each other, but this one would be fun to watch.
Florida vs. Florida State … Not quite the status of Sooners vs. Cowboys, but this would be good.
Vanderbilt vs. Florida … Rematch of the recent SEC Championship that saw the Commodores beat the Gators to win the title.
Oklahoma State vs. Georgia Southern … Of course. Everyone loved the Saint Peters story in basketball. And what would be better than mid-major Georgia Southern going for match play win vs. the most historic program in college golf?
Arizona State vs. Arizona … The two Arizona schools, head-to-head at Grayhawk. Please!
Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State … If this were to happen you could instantly sell tickets and Golf Channel ratings in Oklahoma would be a record high for the network.
Oklahoma vs. Auburn … Does this one need any explanation? After Auburn blitzed the host Sooners in the second round of regional play a friendly tweet got things going. The Sooners responded with a dominating final round to win the regional and followed that up with back-at-ya tweet.
Auburn had a little fun after the second round but Oklahoma had the last laugh in the Norman Regional pic.twitter.com/SBnhfBV4hM
— Adam Woodard (@AdamWoodard) May 18, 2022