HUTCHINSON, Kan. – Here is a tale of the tape between Alabama and Oklahoma State, the two teams squaring off Wednesday in the NCAA Championship:
Bobby Wyatt (Alabama) vs. Talor Gooch (Oklahoma State)
Wyatt is a match-play ninja, compiling a 9-3 career record in the format, including amateur competitions. Alabama coach Jay Seawell likes to send out his senior first in an attempt to set the tone for the rest of the team, and it workedwonders again Tuesday, as Wyatt won both of his matches, 3 and 2. He will face a tough opponent in Gooch, who has never lost in match play (4-0) and is riding high after sinking a 30-foot birdie putt on the 21st hole to win his match against Stanford.
Robby Shelton vs. Zachary Olsen
On paper, this is a lopsided matchup of the teams’ two freshmen: Shelton is ranked third in the country, while Olsen checks in at No. 109. That hasn’t stopped Olsen from compiling a 2-0 mark so far this week, including a pivotal 3-and-2 victory over Stanford’s David Boote. Shelton has trailed late in each of his two matches, but in the quarterfinals he chipped in on 15 en route to a 2-up victory over SMU, then he holed another chip shot on 16 in the semis for a 2-and-1 win against LSU. The kid is special.
Tom Lovelady vs. Wyndham Clark
Lovelady has come into his own this season and thrived in his role as the Tide’s No. 5 man, but he has a tough matchup against Clark, OSU’s stud and the No. 9-ranked player in college golf. Clark is 2-0 this week, while Lovelady has gone 1-1, including a win over former high-school rival Smylie Kaufman of LSU. Here’s guessing this matchup won’t be nearly as light and friendly.
Trey Mullinax vs. Ian Davis
Battling back pain for the past few months, it didn’t appear like Mullinax would be able to contribute much earlier this week when he received treatment after his qualifying round. Nonetheless, Mullinax took SMU’s best player, Bryson Dechambeau, to the 18th hole before falling 1 up in the quarterfinals, then routed LSU’s Curtis Thompson, 4 and 2. Davis has had a tough draw in match play so far, getting Georgia Tech’s Ollie Schniederjans in the quarters and Stanford’s Cameron Wilson in the semis. It won’t get any easier in this battle of seniors.
Cory Whitsett vs. Jordan Niebrugge
Whitsett is 10-4-1 lifetime in match play, and he’s 7-1 in the NCAA Championship. Niebrugge has proven himself a threat in this format as well, running the table at both the U.S. Amateur Public Links and Western Amateur, and then contributing as a member of the U.S. Walker Cup, where he was teammates with Whitsett. Niebrugge has had tough matches with Tech’s Seth Reeves (2-and-1 win) and Stanford’s Patrick Rodgers (2-and-1 loss), and it’s possible, maybe even likely, that the team match could come down to these two players.