One of college golf’s most exciting days is in the books, with some teams feeling elated, deflated and – more than anything – relieved after the third and final round of NCAA men’s regionals.
Here are the studs and duds from regional play:
• Top seeds: Five of the top six teams in the country won their regional tournament, and they did so emphatically. The combined margin of victory for Alabama (22), Oklahoma State (5), Stanford (1), Georgia Tech (17) and Georgia (13): 58. Guess they’re ready for the NCAA finals.
• Will Long: The Auburn freshman made an albatross on the par-5 16th to stop the Tigers’ slide and help propel the host team into the finals.
• Home teams: Want your team to reach the NCAA Championship? Simple: Just host a regional! All three teams that played the qualifier on their home course – Auburn, Missouri, Oregon – advanced to Prairie Dunes, worthiness be damned.
• Underdogs: This year, five teams ranked Nos. 40-50 (Purdue, Missouri, Iowa State, Georgia State, Oregon) will get to the big dance. The 50th-ranked Cyclones shot 18 (!) under in the final round to vault into the top 5. Yet another reminder that anything can happen in 54 holes.
• Patrick Rodgers: The Stanford junior’s last six starts: 1-1-1-2-1-1. Pay attention, folks: The National Player of the Year is putting up video-game numbers.
• Cal: Yes, the mantra at regionals is to survive and advance, but the Golden Bears are fortunate just to reach the finals – Clemson threw away four shots on the final two holes, dropping from third to sixth. The conditions in Illinois were awful, and it was always going to be difficult playing in the backyard of three teams in the field, but suddenly the squad with six wins and a No. 4 national ranking doesn’t look like such a national-title contender.
• UCF and Virginia: The No. 7 Knights and No. 11 Cavs are the only top-20 teams not heading to Kansas. Regular-season success doesn’t mean much anymore.
• Julien Brun: The TCU junior will skip next week’s NCAA Championship to honor an exemption into the Colonial. There’ll be plenty of time for those Tour starts, no?
• BYU: The NCAA narrowly avoided a potential disaster Sunday when the Cougars fell out of the top 5 in Auburn. The Mormon-run school can’t play on Sundays. The NCAA stroke play runs Friday through Sunday. See where this was going?