Men’s golf team shaping up as one of ASU’s best

<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons above -->
                <div>
                    <a class="addthis_button" href="//addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300" addthis:url='http://phxfan.com/2015/02/mens-golf-team-shaping-one-asus-best/' addthis:title='Men’s golf team shaping up as one of ASU’s best'>
                        <img src="//cache.addthis.com/cachefly/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/>
                    </a>
                </div>  So how is the Arizona State men’s golf team doing without Phil Mickelson?  Just fine, thank you. The Sun Devils’ men’s team has won three tournaments since the famous professional […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
                <div>
                    <a class="addthis_button" href="//addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300" addthis:url='http://phxfan.com/2015/02/mens-golf-team-shaping-one-asus-best/' addthis:title='Men’s golf team shaping up as one of ASU’s best'>
                        <img src="//cache.addthis.com/cachefly/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/>
                    </a>
                </div>

 

So how is the Arizona State men’s golf team doing without Phil Mickelson?  Just fine, thank you.

The Sun Devils’ men’s team has won three tournaments since the famous professional golfer was ‘fired’ from his job as an assistant coach in early January.  That makes three in a row, the first time in almost 20 years that has happened.

Mickelson responded last month to rumors that he was leaving the Sun Devil program by acknowledging, tongue-in-cheek, that he had been ‘fired’ by his brother, Tim, the ASU head coach.  That generally got a good laugh and defused the story before it got legs.

Back in November Phil had agreed to come on board to help with the recruiting effort after making sure it didn’t violate NCAA rules.  But, with limited time due to his PGA travel schedule and event commitments, he wasn’t able to give his younger brother help with things like making travel arrangements for the ASU team and other administrative duties an assistant coach would normally handle.

So Phil went back to his role as one of the game’s most popular, and successful, professional players.  And the ASU program rolled on.

And very smoothly, we might add.

After Phil’s departure, the ASU men’s team won the Arizona Collegiate in Tucson, the Amer Ari Invitational in Hawaii against one of the strongest fields in the country, and completed the trifecta last week by winning The Prestige at PGA West in California.

The men’s team won back-to-back tournament titles during the 2003-04 season, but the last time they put together three straight tourney victories was 1999 when that team won the ASU Thunderbird/Savane Invitational, the Pac-10 Championship, and the NCAA West Regional.

This season, ASU has been steadily moving up the national rankings.  They were the No. 27 team in the country when they won the Amer Ari and had moved into the No. 21 slot by the time they captured the team trophy at the Prestige last week.  And this week the GCAA Coaches poll has them at No. 13, one of six Pac-12 teams included in the nation’s Top 25.

Leading the way this season has been Maxx Rottluff, the junior import from Dusseldorf, Germany, and Jon Rahm, the junior from Spain.

Rottluff led all Sun Devils in two of the three tournament wins, finishing in a tie for fourth place with a 10-under 206 at the Prestige; shooting a career-best 64 on the final round of the Amer Ari to tie teammate Rahm for eighth place in that event; and capturing the individual title in the Arizona Collegiate with a 10-under 203 that included 15 birdies.

The fourth-place finish for Rottluff was his sixth top-10 finish this season.  Rahm finished in a tie for second place last week at the Prestige with an 11-under 205 total and sophomore Nicolo Galletti carded a 3-under 213 for 21st place, marking his third top-25 finish this season.

Rahm made a name for himself in international play when he topped a field of more than 200 competitors at the World Amateur Championships last September, shooting a 23-under 263 to break the event record set by Jack Nicklaus in 1960.

But local golf fans would be more familiar with his name as it relates to last month’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.  The 20-year-old received a sponsor’s exemption to get into the field and then responded by shooting a 12-under 272 that put him in a tie for fifth place – just three strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka.

This ASU team is loaded.

“We have played great in the spring, with three different lineups,” said Mickelson, who took over the program in the summer of 2011.  “This team  is really deep.  We can’t wait to get to Las Vegas and compete again.

That reference has nothing to do with gambling.  The Sun Devils will be competing next in the Southern Highlands Collegiate, which is being held in Las Vegas March 9-11.

A win there would add to the growing perception that this may be the best men’s team to come out of ASU in the last two decades.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)