NCAA Men's Golf Championships: Illinois, Georgia Tech's Ross Steelman maintain leads
Derek Hitcher (Pepperdine Athletics photo)
Derek Hitcher (Pepperdine Athletics photo)

There wasn't much movement at the top of the leaderboard Sunday at the NCAA Men's Golf Championships at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. but there was plenty of action around the cutline for teams trying to crack the top-15 and extend their seasons at least another day.

Illinois backed up its second-round 7-under 273 by carding a 4-under 276 on Sunday and at 6-under 834, the Illini hold a three-shot lead over Pepperdine with one round remaining which will determine the top-eight seeds for the match play portion of the event. Illinois played the last two rounds at 11-under par which is the lowest consecutive two-day total at Grayhawk since Oklahoma shot 12-under in 2021.

Having the luxury of playing in the morning, the Illini received solid play from Tommy Kuhl (67) and Jackson Buchanan (68) as the Big Ten champions inched closer to securing the top-seed for match play.

"I thought it was a solid day,” said Illinois Head Coach Mike Small. “Yesterday, we had a little bit of a different edge to us coming out because we wanted to come back after an indifferent first round, with a little more assertiveness - a little more aggressiveness.

“Today, we came out with a good, solid look. Sometimes, you can lack a little after an effort like yesterday, and our guys didn't do that. They came out, played their game, stood steadfast and played solid golf.”

Led by Derek Hitchner’s 5-under 65, Pepperdine shot a lights-out 11-under round of 269 to jump three spots up the leaderboard into second place and trails Illinois by just three shots heading into tomorrow's final qualifying round.

The Waves are well within the 15-team cutline and seem poised to make another strong run at the national title, albeit with a different cast.

After losing three key players from a team that won a national championship two years ago and reached the national semifinals last season, transfers Sam Choi, Luke Gifford and Roberto Nieves joined stalwarts William Mouw and Derek Hitchner to form a talented lineup that kept getting better as the year progressed, finishing in the top three in six out of seven events, including wins at The Prestige, the Western Intercollegiate and the West Coast Conference Championships.

Gifford carded a 3-under 67 on Sunday and is currently tied for eighth while Choi posted a 4-under 67 to jump 11 spots into a tie for 13th.

“We knew the scores this morning could be low,” said Pepperdine Head Coach Michael Beard. “We looked at the hole locations and felt under par was a possibility. The greens were a little bit softer and not as much wind. We were able to be a little more aggressive and the guys played great.”

• • • • •

GOLFWEEK: How a pebble helped spark Luke Gifford and Pepperdine to a record-setting round

• • • • •

Movers and shakers

Stanford and Ohio State were the biggest movers on Sunday.

The Cardinal began the day outside the 15-team cutline but used a 6-under round of 274 to move into sixth place at 10-over 830. The Buckeyes posted a 4-over round of 284 to tie Texas Tech for the 15th and final spot.

Ohio State's Neal Shipley birdied three of his final four holes en route to posting a 3-under 67 to keep the Buckeyes' season alive.

The two teams will playoff for the final tee time in Monday's final round in five-hole aggregate score with all five players playing one hole between holes 14-18.

Florida State and Vanderbilt are tied for eighth at 13-over heading into the final round, with Virginia (+14), Auburn (+16) and Texas A&M (+17) in hot pursuit. Only seven shots separates sixth-place (Stanford) and 12th place Texas A&M.

Following Monday's round the field will be cut to eight teams for match play, plus the individual national champion will be determined.

• • • • •

Steelman stays steady; will take four shot lead into final round

Georgia Tech senior Ross Steelman turned in his third consecutive sub-par round on Sunday with a 2-under 68 and at 9-under for the tournament, will take a four-stroke lead over Shipley and North Carolina's Dylan Menante into Monday's final round of stroke play.

Steelman's six birdies offset his four bogeys in the third round, leaving the Columbia, Mo. native on the brink of becoming the fourth Georgia Tech player to win the men's individual national championship. “Anytime you can correct a mistake (bogey on the 11th) on the next hole is an added little confidence boost,” said Steelman. “I think bouncing back from bogeys reflects on attitude. My attitude was good out there today. Nice and calm, great pairing with (Cole) Sherwood and Luke Gifford. It was just fun, having a good time in the desert.”

Results: NCAA Division I Championship
1BrazilFred BiondiBrazil150069-68-69-67=273
T2GAJackson BuchananDacula, GA120071-68-68-67=274
T2MORoss SteelmanColumbia, MO120064-69-68-73=274
T4EnglandBarclay BrownEngland90068-71-67-69=275
T4CADylan MenanteCarlsbad, CA90068-70-67-70=275

View full results for NCAA Division I Championship

ABOUT THE NCAA Division I Championship

30 teams and 6 individuals not on a qualifying team make up the field for the championship of NCAA Division I women's golf.

After 72 holes of stroke play, the individual champion is crowned, and the low 8 teams advance to match play to determine the team champion.

View Complete Tournament Information

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