OOLTEWAH, Tenn. – The new NCAA Championship format was instituted two years ago to add excitement to this event. It worked Thursday, as three teams – Arizona State, San Diego and Stanford – tied for the final match-play spot and will play off Friday morning at 8 a.m.
Arizona State (290), San Diego (292) and Stanford (288) all finished at 4-over 868. Florida and Virginia finished one shot outside the playoff. Defending champion Texas A&M rallied on the final round with a 6-under 282, but fell three shots short.
At one point Thursday, there were five teams tied for the eighth and final spot. San Diego head coach Tim Mickelson compared the leaderboard to the stock market. “It’s up 300 points one day, down 700, then it comes back up 400. It was all over the place,” he said.
The playoff, which will be held Friday morning, will be conducted on Nos. 11, 15, 16, 17 and 18. It will be a shotgun start, with one player from each team starting on each hole.
All four San Diego scorers made bogey on No. 18.
“We’re definitely going to try to lighten the mood a little bit,” Mickelson said.
Alex Ching, who finished second in the individual race, was the final Torero on the course. After making birdie on No. 17, he drove into the trees right, and hit his recovery shot left of the green, but was left with a 20-foot par putt after a difficult chip from a downhill lie. San Diego’s Gunner Wiebe had eight birdies in his 72 Thursday, but also had two double bogeys and four bogeys, including one on 18 that came after birdies on Nos. 16 and 17.
Kenneth McCready, who’d shot 74-79 in the first two rounds, rebounded Thursday, and was 1 under par through 17 holes before missing a 3-foot par putt on the final hole.
“I’m probably going to tell him the story of me. I three-putted from 12 feet in the 2000 regionals, and I missed a putt about the same length that cost my team (Oregon State) a chance to get into a playoff,” Mickelson said. “I’m basically going to say, ‘Look, we’re better off you missing and be in a playoff than missing by one.’ ”
This Stanford team has never been in a playoff, head coach Conrad Ray said. San Diego lost to BYU in extra holes in March at the Fresno State Lexus Golf Classic. Arizona State won a playoff over USC at the 2008 Pac-10 Championship. “I think they had about as much fun as they’ve ever had,” Arizona State head coach Randy Lein said.
The Sun Devils can also draw off their experience at the NCAA Southeast Regional, where Knut Borsheim had to birdie four of his final five holes, and the Sun Devils’ final player on the course, Scott Pinckney, had to birdie his final hole for Arizona State to advance on the number.
“I think we’re really pumped,” Knut Borsheim said. “We pretty much have nothing to lose, with the way we got into this tournament.”
Arizona State which teed off on No. 10 Thursday, rallied to make this playoff. Borsheim made birdie on No. 7, James Byrne made birdie on No. 8 and Braxton Marquez made birdie on the final hole.
Stanford struggled on its final nine as it played alongside Arizona State. Andrew Yun played his final nine holes in 2-under 34 as part of his bogey-free 69, but he was the only member of the Cardinal to play that nine under par. David Chung and Steve Ziegler made bogey on No. 9, their final hole.
“The team mood right now is not great,” Ray said. “But I think that when they sit back and look at it, we played a good, solid round today and they have a chance.”
Three teams have a chance to advance out of Friday’s playoff. Only one will make match play. Oh, the drama.
ABOUT THE NCAA Championship
National championship of NCAA Division I
golf teams. 54 holes of stroke play determine
individual champion, with the low 8 teams
advancing to match play to determine the
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