HUTCHINSON, Kan. – Four weather delays have forced tournament officials to call an audible at the NCAA Championship.
The result was a best-case scenario for all involved.
Monday’s fourth and final round of individual stroke play has been canceled in order to give all 30 teams a chance to complete 54 holes.
By midday Sunday, only half of the field had completed 36 holes after the tournament was halted by nearly 10 hours of weather delays.
Once the second round is complete (and following a 40-minute break), teams Nos. 16-30 on the leaderboard will be sent off in a shotgun format.
Those 15 teams likely will not be able to complete play Sunday, so they will resume early Monday morning. There is a window for this wave to complete play – if they are unable to finish, those Round 3 scores will be declared null and void.
What, exactly, is that window?
“It’s a moving target with the weather,” said Larry Mays, head coach at Georgia Southern and part of the NCAA golf committee. “There’s a time (Monday) when we hit critical mass and we’d have to cut 16-30.”
If that’s the case, then the third round will consist only of teams 1-15 and the low six individuals not on those teams. The low eight teams after 54 holes would head into the match-play portion of the championship. The individual champion would be named after 54 holes.
Golf Channel will still have live coverage of the NCAA finals, beginning at 5 p.m. ET Monday.
This is a departure from the original tournament schedule, but nonetheless a welcome one.
Team stroke play was scheduled to run Friday through Sunday, at which time they’d cut to both the low eight teams for match play and – new this year – also the low 40 individuals and ties. Those players would then compete in the fourth and final round of individual stroke play on Monday. The quarterfinals and semifinals would follow on Tuesday, with the finals on Wednesday.
The revised format ensures that all 30 teams in the field will at least have an opportunity to play 54 holes.
Over the past several hours, coaches and players voiced concerns that the match-play bracket would be determined after just 36 holes. Essentially, they would have worked for eight months to play two rounds in less-than-ideal conditions. After all, one half of the wave – teams seeded 16-30 – has been stuck on the course during all four weather delays. The top six teams in the country, meanwhile, played all 36 holes in about 10 hours Saturday.
This decision allayed those concerns.
Canceling the fourth round of individual stroke play was the one and only move – in college golf, team play trumps individuals, every time.