Tiger Woods was once the most dominant golfer in the world, but his recent struggles have him searching for momentum, skill and a killer instinct.
Maybe Woods should expand his search to Westwood, because the UCLA men’s golf team has all three.
The Bruins have finished third or better in each of their four tournaments this year. Their roster sports three of the top 20 collegiate golfers in the country, and freshman Patrick Cantlay, ranked No. 3 in the nation, is an astounding 12 strokes under par on the season.
The Bruins are Golf Week’s No. 2 team in the country, and are showing no signs of loosening their grip on their elite ranking.
“Every tournament we go out with the mindset, “˜We are going to win this tournament,’” Cantlay said. “Every week there’s pressure on the guys to go out and win because that’s what coaches expect, and that’s what we expect from ourselves.”
This week, UCLA heads to Pelican Hill Golf Resort in Newport Beach for the Battle of the Beach, a tournament UCLA co-hosts with Long Beach State.
Every golfer on the Bruin roster will compete at Pelican Hill, but only six will be eligible to represent the team. Although coach Derek Freeman has not decided who will be playing, Cantlay, junior Gregor Main, and sophomore Pontus Widegren are likely exempt from having to qualify in Freeman’s eyes because of their exceptional play this season.
“It’s nice that we have some experience on this course,” Main said. “We’ve won it before, and that gives us some confidence going in.”
Last year, Widegren led the Bruins with a third-place finish at the tournament. His 64 (-7) on the final day was a big reason UCLA was able to come from behind and beat Arkansas by a single stroke and take home first place.
If the Bruins are to repeat as champions, they are going to have to get past twelve other talented teams, including No. 11 San Diego State and No. 13 Arkansas.
This tournament provides an excellent opportunity for Main, who finished 15th last year, to pick up his first individual collegiate win. Main has come close several times, with eight top-10 finishes throughout his UCLA career.
“I’m still looking to win a college match and I think I’m pretty close to doing that,” Main said. “If I keep working hard on the things I need I think I can get a win individually, which should help the team out a lot.”
This week also presented a challenging scenario for the Bruins that most of the other golfers in the tournament do not have to face – midterms.
“I think we all have tests coming up we have to prepare for,” Widegren said over the weekend.
After finishing third in the Hawai’i Hilo tournament last week, the Bruins have been busy practicing and studying, and then practicing and studying some more.
Hopefully for them, their hard work pays dividends in the form of birdies and eagles.