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NCAA Golf Regional Preview

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Let’s take a look at our No. 1 Seed

2017 East Lake Cup - Day 3 Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The commodores finished the regular season at No. 4 in the polls and bowed out of the SEC Quarterfinals to a red hot Arkansas Razorbacks. However, going into the NCAA Regionals, the ‘Dores have three studs to carry them through 54 holes.

There is no match play, and the low five teams out of the Region will move on to the NCAA Finals. This year, the Commodores were chosen to compete in the Athens Region (other regions included Pullman, WA; Stanford, CA; Austin, TX; Myrtle Beach, SC; and Louisville, KY).

The NCAA basically followed the Golfstat rankings, assigning number one seeds to the top six, number two seeds to 7-12, and so on. They then included conference champions to fill out the field of 81.

UGA GOLF COURSE, ATHENS

The UGA Golf Course is hosting one of three regionals east of the Mississippi. The course is a Robert Trent Jones design from 1968, but it was redesigned by the Love Design Group in 2006. It has a rating of 75.1 and slope of 139. The average slope is 113, and the maximum is 155, so it is a very difficult course for the average golfer.

Like courses in Northeast, GA, it features lots of undulation and thick pine forests. It’s a long course, just over 7,200 yards, and it will challenge even the longer hitters in the NCAA. Like another course in that region of the state, it features a signature par-3 over water. UGA’s 13th is a 200+ yard to a postage stamp that can’t be short.

THE FIELD

Vanderbilt, Duke, UGA, Liberty, and Alabama make up the top five seeds in this field. The NCAA has tried to reward the better teams in the country by not making them travel, but it also can create tournaments that look a lot like conference championships. In addition to three teams in the top five seeds, the SEC has two other teams, Tennessee and Kentucky, in the field of 13 teams.

Vanderbilt has the best adjusted scoring average of any team in the regional at 70.79 and a stroke and a half lead over Duke in their adjusted average drop score. Vanderbilt also has three players in the top 23 of the NCAA, WIll Gordon (No. 6), Patrick Martin (No. 14), and John Augenstein (No. 22). Unfortunately for the Commodores, they don’t have another player in the top 250.

Duke has four players in the top 250, with three in the top 80. Their best player, Alex Smalley, is the No. 7 ranked player in the country with a scoring average of 69.63. He plays the par-4s and par-5s under par but plays the par-3s over par. That doesn’t bode well for the 13th hole. When it comes to going low, his best score on the year is a 61. What’s fascinating is he has only made one eagle all year, but has 130 birdies. All those birdies are probably why his scoring average on par-4s is the third best in the country.

The individual play will most likely be dominated by Vanderbilt and Duke players, although all five of Georgia’s players are in the top 250. Liberty has two players in the top 55, as well.

I suspect a strictly stroke play tournament favors the Commodores with their elite talent in their top three. However, UGA is hosting on their home course, and they have five players who can score well. Local knowledge is a real thing, and it’s probably the most important home field advantage in all of sports.

If Gordo can go low the way he has been known to do two of the three days, it will offset the plurality of scores UGA will post.

Here’s a twist- Duke has four players in the top Top100 when it comes to lowest rounds of the season. Vanderbilt has one. UGA has none.

So it’ll be a Dawg-fight. (I’m not sorry!)