By Ron Balicki, Golfweek
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Coach Jay Seawell’s Alabama team was in the first wave off the first tee Wednesday morning in the second round of the NCAA
Coach Derek Freeman’s UCLA team was in the same position only going off the 10th tee.
When they completed their rounds, both shooting 3-over 287, they stood 1-2 on the leaderboard -- Alabama with a two-day total of 4-over 572 and UCLA at 8-over 576.
Close to eight hours later and with the entire 30-team field finished, the Crimson Tide and the Bruins remained and retained their lofty positions.
On yet another day when Riviera won the battle, no one was able to catch fire and charge past the two early front-runners.
What Day 2 did was set up one wild and crazy scramble come Thursday for the eight spots that will determine the match-play field on Friday.
Day 2 also set the stage for what should be an equally intense battle to decide who will wear the individual crown as the 2012 NCAA champion.
Thomas Pieters of Illinois is the one everyone will be chasing. The sophomore from Belgium shot a 3-under 68, matching the best score of the second round, and stands at 5-under 137.
Starting on the 10th hole, Pieters, who finished second last week at the Southwest Regional and last fall won the Nicklaus Invitational, birdied his opening hole, added another on 14, made bogey at 16, then birdied 17. On the front he birdied holes 1 and 6 and made bogey at 4.
He holds a 2-stroke lead over Tyler McCumber of Florida and Anton Arboleda of UCLA. McCumber shot 71 and Arboleda, the first-round leader with a tournament-low 67, fired a 72.
Alabama’s Justin Thomas follows after a pair of 70s for 2-under 141, while three players are in a 1-under 141 -- Chase Marinell of Liberty, Cory Whitsett of Alabama, who also shot 68, and Patrick Rodgers of Stanford.
Following Alabama and UCLA in the team scramble was afternoon starter Florida State at 12-over 580, while North Florida and Oklahoma are just another shot behind. Washington is next at 14 over with Liberty holding down the No. 7 slot at 15 over.
Now it really gets interesting in the chase for eight. Five teams are tied for that precious final spot at 16 over while another six teams are at 17 over, including top-ranked Texas and Pac-12 powerhouse Oregon.
Want to feel some pressure? That would be any one of those 18 teams.
“When your team is in the hunt for one of those eight spots the last round, that could be the highest level of pressure there is in college golf,” said Chris Zambri, head coach at host USC, which is one of the six tied for eighth. “Tomorrow will be super intense, that’s for sure.”