By Sean Martin
STILLWATER, Okla. – Five things to take from the final round of stroke play at the NCAA Championship:
1.) Sneak attack: How stressful is cut day at the NCAA Championship? As Augusta State Josh Gregory watched his team make the turn Thursday, he looked down at his phone and muttered, “This stinks.” Patrick Reed analyzed the most meaningless numbers in his yardage book whenever he saw assistant coach Kevin McPherson look at his phone, hoping to keep his mind off of the scoreboard.
Reed shot a final-round 71 to help the defending champions sneak into match play at the NCAA Championship. The Jaguars shot a final-round 300 to finish in seventh place at 24-over 888, one shot ahead of Duke. The top eight teams after Thursday’s first round advanced to match play. Augusta State is the first defending champion to make match play.
“We made it hard on ourselves,” Gregory said. “But I can promise you we won’t be scared of this match-play thing. They just wanted a tee time tomorrow.”
Reed made birdies on Nos. 5 and 7, and two-putted from 85 feet on No. 8, to ensure the Jaguars could continue their title defense. Augusta State finished its third round on Karsten Creek’s front nine.
Augusta State defeat Oklahoma State in the final match of last year’s NCAA Championship. The Jaguars now have a chance to repeat on the Cowboys’ home turf. Gregory will continue to use the underdog card as a rally cry for his team.
“Nobody wants to say they lost to Augusta State,” he said.
UCLA will be the No. 1 seed in match play after shooting 8-over 872. Georgia Tech finished three shots back.
2.) Devil's in the details: Duke matched the day’s low score (293) to grab the eighth and final match-play spot. The Blue Devils are 18th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
Duke had to count a 79 and 77 in the first round, shooting 303 to finish the day in 18th place. The Blue Devils shot consecutive 293s to climb to eighth after 54 holes. Duke did not have a single under-par round this week.
3.) Hosts with the most: For all the concern about Oklahoma State’s presence near the cut line entering the final round of stroke play, it should be noted that the Cowboys finished closer to first place than the cut. They shot 294 Thursday, one shot off the day’s low score, to tie Illinois for third place at 15 over par.
No Cowboys broke par Thursday – Peter Uihlein’s second-round 69 was the team’s only under-par round this week – but also had just three scores higher than 75. The Cowboys only had to count one score worse than 75.
4.) Individual honors: LSU senior John Peterson won the individual title at 5-under 211 (74-65-72). Peterson teed off at 8:10 a.m. Thursday, but couldn’t be declared the champion until UCLA freshman Patrick Cantlay missed a 15-foot eagle putt at about 7:30 p.m. Cantlay finished second at 4 under par.
The NCAA title was Peterson’s second career collegiate victory. It seemed unlikely after he shot 6-over 42 on his first nine holes this week. He played the next 27 holes in 11 under par to take a one-shot lead after 36 holes. He birdied his final two holes Thursday, including a 6-footer on No. 18 that lipped out, stopped momentarily on the lip, then went in the hole.
Peterson wasn’t among the 16 players invited to a Walker Cup practice session earlier this year, but now has to be considered a Walker Cup favorite. He won the prestigious Jones Cup in February.
Cantlay may have come up short in his bid to become the first freshman since USC’s Jamie Lovemark in 2007 to win the NCAA Championship, but he likely clinched player of the year honors. Cantlay entered the week ranked No. 1 in the Golfweek and Golfstat rankings after winning four times.
5.) Close calls: Iowa, No. 18 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, made a run at match play before finishing 10th, three strokes back of Duke. On a day when no team was able to shoot better than 5-over 293, the Hawkeyes were just 1-over par after nine holes Thursday.
Iowa’s five players were a combined 10-over par on their back nine (Karsten Creek’s front side), though. They made just one birdie on that nine. Iowa tied with Michigan at 28 over par. Michigan matched Duke’s 293 for the best score of the day.
Texas A&M, the 2009 NCAA champions, finished at 26-over par, one shot behind Duke. Texas A&M’s Cameron Peck, who finished third individually, missed a 15-foot birdie putt on his final hole. Peck was the last Aggie on the course. The Aggies’ four scorers played the final four holes in 4 over par.
Alabama, which started the final round in fifth place, fell to 14th with a 28-over 316 in the final round. The Crimson Tide had to count 81s from its top two players, Bud Cauley and Cory Whitsett.