Men's Golf Begins Big Title Hunt Friday
April 22, 2008
LUBBOCK, Texas - Despite entering this weekend's Big 12 Conference Men's Golf Championship as the third-highest ranked team in the field at No. 27, Texas Tech can't rest on its laurels as the Red Raiders and 10 other teams look to dethrone defending champion and No. 6 Oklahoma State.
This year's championship features a 72-hole format for the first time as the teams will play 36 holes Friday, followed by 18-hole rounds Saturday and Sunday. The event consisted of 54 holes in the past. Whispering Pines Golf Course (Par 72, 7,249 yards) in Trinity, Texas, will serve as the host venue, while Texas Tech is the tournament host.
The last time Texas Tech won a conference championship came during the final Southwest Conference season in 1995-96. The Red Raiders posted a three-round 880, while Bryan Novoa and SMU's Hank Kuehne shared medalist honors with a pair of 213s. The Red Raiders turned in their best finishes in Big 12 Conference Championship play each of the last two seasons with a fourth-place showing in 2006 and a third-place effort last year.
Texas Tech is averaging +5.4 (289.8) strokes over par this season, which ranks as the second-best season in school history (+4.13 in 2005-06). The 289.9 is the best single-season stroke average on record for a Texas Tech team. The Red Raiders also have a 91.3 winning percentage (264-25) this season and are tied fifth nationally with three tournament wins (Shoal Creek Intercollegiate, Oklahoma Intercollegiate and Herb Wimberly Intercollegiate). The team also has three other top five finishes in 10 events.
Will Griffin leads the Red Raiders with a 72.53 (+1.43 vs. par) stroke average in 30 rounds this season, which ranks ninth on the Texas Tech single-season scoring list. Mid-season addition Chris Ward is second with a 72.44 (+1.78) average and has three tournaments under his belt since transferring from Oklahoma State. Santiago Rivas carries a 73.07 (+1.97) average into the event, while Garrett Merrell is close behind at 73.22 (+2.11). Sergio Franky has averaged 73.3 (+2.2) strokes per round in 10 events during his true freshman season.
Merrell ranks 20th nationally with five eagles this season, while his opening-round 64 at the Herb Wimberly Intercollegiate in Las Cruces, N.M., Oct. 29, is tied for 30th nationally. Franky's touch on the par threes has been evident as he ranks 30th nationally with a 72.2 percentage in par three greens in regulation.
Texas A&M is the second-highest ranked team in the field at No. 24, while Texas is No. 39. Other rankings include, in order, No. 58 Colorado, No. 61 Baylor, No. 67 Oklahoma, No. 69 Kansas State, No. 81 Iowa State, No. 114 Missouri, No. 141 Kansas and No. 177 Nebraska.
Oklahoma State's Ricky Fowler is the nation's top-ranked golfer and the only one in the field with a top 30 ranking. Griffin is ranked 105th for the Red Raiders.
The teams will familiarize themselves with the course during Thursday's practice round. Live scoring will begin at 8 a.m. CT Friday at www.golfstat.com and will continue with Saturday's 9 a.m. first tee and Sunday at 8 a.m.