Justin Suh (3rd from left) and the USC Trojans (USC photo)
ROLLING HILLS ESTATES, CA (April 25, 2018) – No. 21 USC, led by a closing 67 from freshman Issei Tanabe and junior Justin Suh, won its first Pac-12 team title since 2011 while Suh claimed the Trojans’ first individual crown since the same year – both by four strokes – on the final day of the 2018 Pac-12 Men’s Golf Championships at the Rolling Hills C.C. on Wednesday (April 25) in Rolling Hills Estates.
The Trojans, who finished the second and third rounds with five-stroke leads, built another double digit lead midway through the final round, saw it sliced to three shots, but held firm to win at 31-under 1389 (347-340-351-351) for its conference-best 20th title. USC finished four ahead of Colorado and eight better than Arizona State.
Suh won his USC record fifth tournament of the season at 16-under 268 (68-64-65-71), seeing his six-shot lead at the start of the day evaporate into a tie for first on the back 9 before rallying with an eagle on 15, a birdie on 16 and pars on 17 and 18 to win the Trojans’ 22nd Pac-12 individual title, also most in the conference.
“This feels awesome, it feels really awesome,” said USC 12th-year coach Chris Zambri on his third Pac-12 title at Troy. “I am so excited for the program and these guys. It feels great.”
Said Suh on the tight finish: “It was rough. I had nothing going and we were always on the clock. It was tough playing smart golf because we really couldn’t go through our whole routine and it was a little rushed.
“On No. 15, I asked Justin (USC assistant coach Justin Silverstein) where do I stand. He said you were one ahead. I knew coming down I had to finish strong. That eagle and birdie helped a lot.”
After 54 holes at 16-under, Suh was merely human today as his younger teammates stepped up, namely Tanabe, whose final round 4-under 67 was his best as a Trojan to move up into a tie for 23rd at 1-under 283 (70-73-73-67). Tanabe, like Suh, finished eagle-birdie-par-par.
Sophomore Cheng Jin (68-71-71-70) and freshman Kaito Onishi (75-64-71-70) tied for 13th at 4-under 280, both closing with 1-under final rounds. Jin had five birdies Wednesday, Onishi four, including two over his final six holes.
Sophomore Ryan Slater tied for 19th at 2-under 282 (69-69-71-73), posting four final round birdies with one on 17 to help him lock in a 2-over today. Sophomore Kyle Suppa tied for 58th at 8-over 292 (72-72-75-73) and carded a 2-under on the back 9 to also finish 2-over today.
“It feels great,” Suh said. “It was a long four days, but it feels great. Everything paid off, everything we worked for, especially the preparation we did as a team and for the coaches to help us out on the course means a lot.”- Thanks to USC Men's Golf for this report
THIRD ROUND RECAP by the Pac 12 Conference
The USC Trojans continued to lead the team race with a three-round total 27-under, five shots ahead of second-place Arizona State at the Pac-12 Men’s Golf Championships at Rolling Hills Country Club (Par 71, 7,130 yards) in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.
After posting a team score of 4-under for the day, the Trojans will be paired in the final round with the hard-charging Sun Devils, who fired a team score of 14-under to move up three spots in the standings, and Colorado.
“Seemed like we had it going pretty good there for a while, and I think we sputtered a little bit coming in, but that’s okay, that’s golf,” stated USC coach Chris Zambri. “We are still in a great spot and looking for a great day tomorrow.”
For the second consecutive round, USC Justin Suh posted the low round of the day with a 6-under 65 to push his lead in the individual race to six strokes and is sitting at 16-under 197 (68-64-65) for the Championship. Arizona’s George Cunningham is second at 10-under.
Buoyed by the play of freshmen Koichiro Ishika (5-under 66) and Mason Andersen (4-under 67), Arizona State fired the day’s low round (14-under) to move up three spots in the standings and is at 22-under for the Championships. Ishika is at 9-under for the Championships and is in third place.
“USC played so well yesterday, that the only way we could get anywhere near it for the final round was to have a big day today,” said Arizona State coach Matt Thurmond. We didn’t do anything special, just took advantage of the par 5’s and everyone did their job. I felt like if we could get within six to eight shots we’d have a chance. Hopefully, we will have a shot tomorrow.”
On the performance of Ishika and Andersen, Thurmond added, “Today was huge for our freshmen. I say it all the time, you hope they are sophomores by now. They have done an awesome job and am really excited for them. They have so much enthusiasm and fire and they’ve improved so much.”
Colorado, behind the play of Yannik Paul and Ross Macdonald, remains in third-place at 19-under, eight strokes back of the Trojans. Both Paul and Macdonald are tied for fourth at 8-under after shooting third round scores of 3-under and 4-under, respectively. California (-12) sits in fourth and Stanford (-11) is in fifth. Washington State (-8) in in sixth place after an impressive third round 13-under, and is the only other team in red numbers.
Chip Shots… Low round for the first round was turned in by Stanford’s Franklin Huang (65), while Suh and Onishi posted the low round for the second round (64). Suh and Washington State’s Zach Anderson posted the low score for the third round (65) … The low freshman through three rounds continues to be Arizona State’s Ishika at 9-under 204 (69-69-66) … 30 players have shot even par or better through three rounds … USC looks to become the first Pac-12 team to host and win the Championships since Washington in 2009.
The Championships will conclude with the final round on Wednesday beginning at 8 a.m. PT.