Cowboys lead, Stanford close behind after NCAA opener
Walt Beazley, Razorbacks Athletics Communications
Defending national champion Oklahoma State leads the field after a 2-over 290 team total during the opening round of the NCAA Championships at the Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark.
Looking for the first title defense since Alabama accomplished the feat in 2013-2014, the Cowboys shook off a rocky start and collectively posted a 3-under team total on their final nine holes of the day to find themselves in familiar territory heading into the second round. Sophomore Austin Eckroat led the Cowboys attack by shooting a 3-under 69 on the hot, humid afternoon that greeted the 30 teams and individual qualifiers on Friday.
“I hit really well out there today. I didn’t really make any putts or any good par saves but other than that I hit really well,” said Eckroat. “It’s a tough course. I hit really well which made it a lot easier, but I can see where my mistakes were. I got a few good breaks but it’s tough and you have to play well. It’s a short break between rounds, so I just have to keep doing the same things that I did today.
Oklahoma State is on top of a jam-packed leaderboard, but is followed closely by Stanford at 3 over, while Auburn and California are both 4 over. Thirteen teams are within 10 shots of the coveted eighth and final qualifying position that is currently held by Texas at 10-over par.
Precision with length is key at the Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout where 20 golfers completed the first round with a score of even par or better on the lengthy 7,550-yard track. California’s Collin Morikawa continued his torrid stretch of golf with a tournament-best nine birdies in route to an opening 5-under 67 to stand alone in first place. Pac-12 Conference running mates Chun An Yu of Arizona State and Kyler Dunkle of Utah each posted a 3-under 69 to share second place along with Oklahoma State’s Eckroat as the trio sits just two shots back of the overnight leader. Stanford’s Isaiah Salinda tallied a 2-under-par 70.
“Coming into this week I knew my game was trending in the right direction and it felt good, said Morikawa, the Pac-12 tournament champion. “I heard this course was tough but I’m always up for the challenge. I didn’t really make many ups and downs, I kept the ball in play and that’s what really matters out here. It’s a tough course. If you make one mistake out there it can start to pile up, so you just have to try to minimize those and keep the ball in play. It’s going to come down to my short game. I’m not going to hit the ball as great every day, so I just have to stick to my strengths. It’s important out here to know how to hit a shot, this is why we practice.
ABOUT THE NCAA Division I Championship
30 teams and 6 individuals not on a qualifying
team make up the field for the championship of
Division I women's golf.
After 72 holes of stroke play, the individual
champion is crowned, and the low 8 teams advance
match play to determine the team champion.
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