Golf Channel Reporter Steve Burkowski is in Pacific Palisades, California for the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship at Riviera Country Club. Thomas Pieters from the University of Illinois won the individual title in the 2012 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship. Pieters is from Belgium and was Illinois Head Coach Mike Small’s first international recruit. Pieters finished second in the NCAA Regionals and won the Jack Nicklaus Invitational at Muirfield Village earlier this year. Pieters has said that he enjoys playing on courses that are difficult and that play to PGA TOUR conditions and Riviera Country Club certainly fills the criteria.
After 54 holes of stroke play, the top 8 teams advance to a match play competition and while it may open the Championship up to more teams, it has received mixed reviews among coaches and players. The more negative reviews tend to come from the more prominent schools and in the fourth year of the Match Play, the format has changed slightly in that coaches will alternate their selections instead of having matches locked in based on the seeding of the individual players. So, if UCLA and Texas meet up, you could end up with a Patrick Cantlay vs. Jordan Spieth match which would be very exciting for everyone.