The Buffaloes are very much in contention to cut the 15 teams in Monday’s fourth and final round, as CU is just three strokes behind three teams ranked 13th (and eight in eighth, which is the limit is for match play starting Monday).
Third-place Illinois took the lead at the 36-hole, as the Fighting Illini posted its best single-round score of 60 over two days, a 7-under 273 for 2-under 558 overall. No. Florida moved into second place with a total of 1-over 561, as the Gators were the only other team to break par in the second (2-under 278). No. No. 2 North Carolina and No. 11 Georgia Tech, the first-round leader, are tied for third (566), while No. 8 Pepperdine rounds out the top five (568).
Colorado, ranked No. 48, tied for 17th with San Francisco with 19 over 579 totals. After the morning round ended, the Buffaloes had moved from tied for 23rd to tied for 15th, but 10 of those teams also played in the afternoon; 12 teams that finished had higher scores compared to CU’s 12-over at the time. Colorado’s 7-over 287 score in the afternoon round tied for fourth, behind Florida’s 278 and Auburn’s and Georgia Tech’s 286.
While the Buffaloes haven’t been a birdie machine, what kept them in the hunt is the fact that it has only two holes worse than bogey by two rounds (180 holes) none on Saturday, the only team out of 30 that could make that claim. But a small flurry of birdies Saturday four over the last five holes brought the Buffs closer to making the cut.
CU’s second-round story was sophomore Tucker Clarkhailing from nearby Paradise Valley, recovered from an 80 opening to a 3-under 67 card, the second-lowest score of the second round, moving him 69 places in the standings to a tie for 84th. The 13-stroke improvement was the largest in the field, as well as the best in Colorado in NCAA Finals history. In 1964, Bob Bahan opened with an 85 and shot a 75, that 10-shot improvement that was the best for 59 years until Saturday.
His 67 was also the third-best score in an NCAA Finals by a Buffalo, behind only a 65 by Hale Irwin in 1967 (en route to medalists) and a 66 by Ben Portie in 2002.
“Yesterday I think I put too much pressure on myself because a lot of people were looking at me,” Clark said of about 20 friends and family at the gallery. “I worked hard all day, I didn’t really hit great irons and although I thought I had some good putts they just didn’t go in. It was frustrating as could be but I knew my game wasn’t was good.” It wasn’t that far off, I just had to hit better irons.
“Last night I talked to my coaches and my mental coach (Howard Falco),” he said. “I was especially focused after studying today’s pin sheet and came out really focused on every hole. I hit it to those spots where I was thinking. I knew if I hit better irons today I would post a lower number. I was very confident because I hit the ball well last month, so I felt the first round was an anomaly.”
“Today I rode it well, but my iron game had improved a lot and I ended up with putts somewhere in my twenties,” he said. “I just came in with the same mentality as yesterday, but I wanted to focus more on my game rather than the attention around me and who was watching.
sophomore Dylan McDermott is tied for 36th place on a 2-over 72, putting him 3-over 143 on his way to the third round. He had a normal day with two birdies and 12 pars against four birdies, and should CU fail to qualify as a team, he is currently able to advance individually. He remains one of only 12 (out of 30) players assigned the No. 1 position to lead their teams at the halfway point.
freshman Hunter Swanson shot a 4-over 74, giving him a 6-over 146 at the halfway mark, tying him in 67th place; he had one birdie and 12 pars against five bogeys, but his lone birdie came on the par-4 17th, one of the late in the round that helped the Buffaloes closer to the cutting line.
sophomore Jack Holland struggled for the second straight round, when he turned in a 9-over-79 for a total of 15-over-155 to tie for 147th. He had nine pars and nine bogeys on Saturday when he did par No. 7 for the second straight round, the hardest hole of the day, the second toughest Friday, and the hardest through both rounds.
“We knew the opening round of the holes was going to be very challenging, and compared to the field, we started well,” head coach Roy Edwards said. “I was really impressed with Tucker’s lap, a phenomenal comeback from yesterday; he was spectacular all day.
“The team did what we always do, just stay in the lap by staying calm and believing in ourselves, and that led to a really good finish,” noted Edwards. “The team as a whole has been very committed to choosing the right lines from tees and greens and executed things very well.”
Georgia Tech’s Ross Steelman maintained his lead in the race for the medalists, as he turned in a 1-under 69 for a 7-under 133 total, increasing his lead from two to three strokes; Daniel Rodrigues of Texas A&M and ADumont de Chassart of Illinois are tied for second with 4-under 136.
The third round is scheduled for Sunday, tying Colorado with No. 5 Texas Tech and No. 40 San Francisco; they tee off at No. 1 starting at 11:20am MST. After the round, the field is reduced to the low 15 teams and nine unaffiliated individuals. The top eight teams then move on to match play, with quarter-finals and semi-finals on May 30 and the championship game on May 31.
As for what the Buffs need to do to advance to the final 15, Edwards essentially said you have to stick to the game plan.
“We just have to keep focusing on ourselves, no one else,” he said. “Even though the course is firming up a bit and it’s a bit warmer, it’s still an advantage to play in the afternoon. You know exactly where you stand and we can see which holes have been difficult for the others before us.”
COMMENTS: McDermott was named to the PING All-West Region team as the list was released Saturday morning by the Golf Coaches Association of America; Biwer was left out of the Senior squad for some odd reason Jack Hughes is also traveling as a substitute in case of illness, injury or just to fill in. When the Buffs started teeing off, the temperature was 90 degrees; the humidity was only 11 percent and the wind was negligible. Bill Musselman in 1968 (second round 76, third round 68), Allen Hoes in 1966 (second round 78, third round 70) and Ron Speaker in 1984 (first round 80, second round 72) The average score for all 312 rounds over 36 holes is 73.27 (73.29 on Saturday, 73.24 on Friday) Colorado plays the par-3s at 11-over (tied at 19th; Stanford leads at 2-under) the par-4s at 25-over (tied at 16th; Florida and Georgia Tech are 8-over to lead) and the par-5s at 2-over (still tied for 25th; Pepperdine leads at 9-under) The Buffs just had 17 birdies (tied for 25th, North Carolina and Pepperdine have 31 at the top of the list) and their 110 pars tied for 16th (Florida has the highest of 128) There were no eagles on Saturday after just two on Friday (neither were on a par-5) With no holes worse than bogey Saturday, the Buffs kicked large numbers to the curb, with only 15 worse than bogey in the last 882 holes from the first round of the Pac-12 Championship.
NOTES II: Four Pac-12 schools advanced to the NCAA Finals; in addition to CU, hosts Arizona State moved from 21st to a tie for ninth, Stanford moved from 17th to a tie for 13th; and Oregon, tied with CU, moved from 23rd to 22nd.
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