ASU men’s golf returns to Tempe to host the ASU Thunderbird Invitational

It’s that time of the year again.

The 42nd annual ASU Thunderbird Invitational starts March 21 on the ASU Karsten Golf Course, and it could not have come sooner for the Sun Devils.

The team will need to capitalize on the home-field advantage following a disappointing 14th-place finish in Las Vegas against a very strong field of teams, its worst finish this season.

 

 

Despite the finish, ASU actually moved up one spot in the Golfweek national rankings.

Coach Tim Mickelson said the Sun Devils’ play in the Collegiate Masters will not be an indicator of how they play in the Thunderbird Invitational.

“The course in Las Vegas played considerably different than the ASU Karsten course will play,” Mickelson said. “So those weaknesses we showed in Vegas should not be an issue at our home event.”

Mickelson said his team should respond well to playing in familiar surroundings.

“Anytime you can sleep in your own bed and compete on the golf course you are most familiar with, there will be a level of comfort that you get to enjoy,” Mickelson said. “I expect that our guys will compete well and have a good chance to win the event come Sunday afternoon. It would not surprise me if five-to-six of our guys are in the top 10 individually at the end of the week.”

ASU has won the Thunderbird Invitational 15 times, most recently in 2009. Ten times has an ASU player finished with the best individual score of the tournament, with Phil Mickelson doing it twice in 1991 and 1992.

Mickelson also said playing in front of their fans will give the team a chance to showcase their talent.

“It’s always fun to be able to play in front of the home fans,” Mickelson said. “We look forward to the opportunity to show our fans and supporters that we are moving in the right direction and that we are a talented team.”

The 14 other teams competing in Tempe this weekend will be UA, Colorado State, Denver, Fresno State, Hawaii, Iowa, Iowa State, New Mexico State, Pepperdine, San Diego, St. John’s, Tulsa, Washington State and Wichita State.

Above all else, Mickelson said the hours the Sun Devils put into practice and the ability to play relaxed will be key.

“We are as prepared as can be, so hopefully we play relaxed. If we play relaxed, we will win the event on Sunday,” Mickelson said.

Following their finish at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational, the Sun Devils will have a couple two-day tournaments in Washington and California before the Pac-12 Men’s Golf Championships begin April 25.

Reach the reporter at hkossodo@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @HKossodo