As it has for the past three seasons, the Stanford men’s golf team will end its regular season on the picturesque fairways of the Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, Calif. Pasatiempo, playing host to this weekend’s Western Intercollegiate, is the Cardinal’s final stop before embarking on what they hope is a long and successful postseason. On the individual side, junior Patrick Rodgers will look to win his fourth straight tournament as he tracks down Tiger Woods for the most event victories in program history.
“[Rodgers is] on top of his game and feeling good about where he stands,” said head coach Conrad Ray. “He’s in good form, so I’m anxious to see how he does. He’s played well at Pasatiempo in the past, winning the individual title two years ago, so he’s got some vibes and knows the course well.”
The Western Intercollegiate is a bit unique in a couple of ways. Instead of the usual play 5-count 4 format of most collegiate invitationals, Western will employ a play 6-count 5 model. This means that Stanford will be able to play six golfers each round and count the lowest five scores towards its cumulative score. In addition, the 54-hole event will be played over two days rather than the regular three, with the competitors scheduled to complete 36 holes on Saturday before playing one frame Sunday.
Like the event played on its historic slopes, Pasatiempo itself is a special venue, especially when considering its connection to this weekend’s Masters. The course was designed by Alister MacKenzie, the same architect behind the creation of Augusta National. MacKenzie, whose ashes were spread over the Pasatiempo course shortly after his death in 1934, was famous for utilizing a minimalist approach in his design theories and liked to disturb the natural environment as little as possible. MacKenzie courses also deliver large but undulating putting surfaces, a facet of the layout which Stanford will certainly have to overcome in order to score well.
“We’ve been working diligently on the shots we’re going to face at Pasatiempo,” Ray said. “The greens are always a challenge there, so lag putting and speed control, as well as playing from the fairway into the green are huge assets we’ve been focusing on. Keeping our ball straight off the tee and working on our distance control on the greens.”
As was the case with the women’s team at the PING/ASU Invite, the Western Intercollegiate should be an excellent opportunity for the men’s squad to see how it compares to its Pac-12 opponents, with five other conference teams in the field this weekend. The Card performed fairly well at this tournament last year, placing third overall and receiving top-15 finishes from Rodgers and then-junior Cameron Wilson. This time around, Stanford will likely get more out of its two frontrunners, thus placing a huge premium on how well its 3-6 players can perform.
“We’ve added [freshman] Jim Liu as our sixth man to the roster that played at The Goodwin,” Ray said. “So we’re hoping that Jim will be a great addition, as it’s six-count five at the Western Intercollegiate. He’s shown some really low rounds, and I think he’s on his way to being a major part of this team, so we’re anxious to stick him in there.”
The former top-ranked U.S. junior golfer, Liu will be one of three freshmen in the sextet along with Maverick McNealy and Viraat Badhwar. Rodgers, Wilson and sophomore David Boote round out Ray’s relatively young but experienced lineup, which will be seeking both validation of their preparation and momentum to use throughout postseason play.
“The guys have been fired up and practicing hard this week in preparation,” Ray said. “I think that they know and realize that this is the time of year where we really need to get in our best form as we head hopefully to the NCAA Regionals and NCAA Championship…we are on the cusp of the time that matters, and the guys are in good spirits and excited to see what happens.”
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