Stanford's McNealy laments rough NCAA opener

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BRADENTON, Fla. – Maverick McNealy keeps detailed stats from every round and qualifier. The numbers from his first round here at Concession weren’t pretty, and it cost him a chance at the NCAA title. 

The Stanford sophomore lost three-and-a-half shots on the greens during an opening 78 that was his worst round of the year by two. Bad timing, because even though McNealy has played better over the past two rounds at the NCAA Championship, he still was well off the pace at 4-over 220.

“I would be very happy if the tournament started today,” he said Sunday.

It’s a sour end to the season for McNealy, who won an NCAA-best six times and is a lock for national player of the year honors. Entering this week he had won three times in his last four starts.

The transition from bentgrass and poa annua to Bermuda grass has proved the most difficult, as earlier in the week he found that he was under-reading all of his putts. 

“I don’t know how I could have prepared differently,” he said, “but that’s exactly what I’m going to try and figure out the next few days, because that’s what’s going to help me play better next time.” 

He has a few ideas in mind, such as practicing on a few of the grainier greens at Stanford’s home course (near the 10th tee, for instance).

McNealy lost nearly three-and-a-half shots on the greens Friday, was about level during a Saturday 72 and then picked up about two-and-a-half shots on the field during a third-round 70. He rolled in an 11-foot putt on the last hole that gave him a chance to play Monday’s final round, which is reserved for the top 15 teams and the low nine individuals on a non-advancing team. 

Stanford was eliminated after finishing three rounds at 35-over 899.   

“The bummer was that I started out so poorly,” he said, “and I was really behind the 8-ball. … It’s a learning curve. It’s a learning experience for me.”