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NCAA format change to showcase 'Race to the Eight'

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The NCAA Championship is set to undergo yet another format change, this time reversing a plan that never even unfolded in competition.   

Last year, the NCAA tournament committee decided to add a fourth and final round of stroke-play qualifying for only the low 40 and ties individually. The decision was controversial – though the move to 72 holes legitimized the individual championship, many coaches argued that it was unnecessary and compromised the team portion.

Coaches never saw the final product, because this past year's NCAA Championship was plagued by four weather delays. Teams needed a fourth day just to complete 54 holes of stroke-play qualifying at Prairie Dunes.

What played out on Golf Channel that day was compelling television, with several teams battling for the eight qualifying spots for match play. It was so captivating, in fact, that the tournament committee recommended Monday a format change: the NCAA will replace the individual-only day with an extra round of qualifying for both the low 15 teams and the low nine players on a non-advancing team.

The low eight teams after four rounds will advance to match play, and a 72-hole NCAA individual champion will also be crowned.

The proposal, which would begin in spring 2015 for both the men’s and women’s finals, could be approved as soon as Sept. 9.

Said Mike Carter, chairman of the NCAA Division I golf committee: “The revised format adds excitement to the championship by televising the ‘Race to the Eight,’ which was so popular with the national viewers this year, while maintaining the 72-hole stroke-play format for determining the individual champion.” 

The 2015 women’s (May 22-27) and men’s (May 29-June 3) championships will be played in back-to-back weeks at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. Golf Channel will televise both events for the first time. 

Here is how the revised schedule will look: 

Wednesday: Teams arrive 

Thursday: Official practice round

Friday: First day of stroke-play qualifying (18 holes)

Saturday: Second day of stroke-play qualifying (18 holes) 

Sunday: Third day of stroke-play qualifying, with a cut to the low 15 teams and low nine individuals on a non-advancing team (18 holes) 

Monday: Final day of stroke-play qualifying to determine the 72-hole individual champion and low eight teams for the match-play bracket

Tuesday: Quarterfinals and semifinals of team play

Wednesday: Championship match to determine team champion