FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — By virtue of completing back-to-back solid rounds, the Oklahoma men’s golf team put a rough first-day NCAA Championships outing in the past.
After Day 1 at Blessings Golf Club, OU was tied for 14th at 16-over par. A 1-under score on Day 2 put the Sooners back in the mix, and they shot even par in their early Sunday morning round to continue their ascent up the leaderboard, reaching as high as second before settling at fourth.
“I think the first round, the golf course was playing that much harder,” OU coach Ryan Hybl said. “We didn’t play great. ... These last two days, I feel like it’s been a little bit more scoreable and fortunately we’ve been able to come out here and make quite a few birdies.
“We’ve backed that up with giving up some shots and whatnot, but overall we’re very happy with where we’re at and we’ve got a chance again tomorrow.”
The top 15 teams advanced to Monday’s final round of stroke play, and the top eight teams after Monday’s round will advance to the match-play quarterfinals.
“I think our game’s been feeling pretty good,” junior Garett Reband said. “Tomorrow’s going to be a good day. We’re going to go out there and get after it.”
Reband led the Sooners with a 3-under 69 on Sunday, tallying six birdies including three in a row to start the front nine. It was by far his best round of the tournament after shooting 6-over 78 on Friday and 4-over 76 on Saturday.
“Today was a lot better,” he said. “The first couple of days, I kind of struggled off the tee, just missing it pretty bad offline. Today was a lot better. The short game is feeling good.”
Freshman Patrick Welch is in 10th place in the individual standings after an even-par round Sunday. Starting at the 10th hole, he picked up three birdies on the back nine before surrendering three bogeys on the front nine.
“Patrick had a very good day,” Hybl said. “He played the back nine almost perfect, to be honest. He went to the front nine and he got a little loose with some shots, three-putted a couple times and didn’t do a very good job on the front.
“But overall, even par for a freshman in his first national championship and he’s had a great 54-hole total. He’s at even par and you can’t complain about that. Every one of these guys we could sit here and nit-pick apart, but there’s a lot of golf that they’ve already played and we’ve got a lot of golf to play tomorrow.”
Top-ranked Oklahoma State maintained considerable distance from the rest of the field, shooting 2-under par to lead second-place Texas and Stanford by 25 strokes. Zach Bauchou rattled off four consecutive birdies on the back nine as part of a 2-under 70 day.
“I got off to a slow start,” Bauchou said. “I was hitting some good shots, but the putts out here are hard to make, so I had some that were breaking 3 or 4 feet. On the back nine is when I started to open the course up and get some balls closer to the hole to make some putts.”
Bauchou’s round was matched by teammate Matthew Wolff while Austin Eckroat and Hayden Wood were 1-over 73.
In addition to being the final round of stroke play, Monday also concludes the individual championship. Seeking the program’s first individual champion since 2006, OSU has Wolff in first, Eckroat in second and Bauchou tied for fifth.
“It’s pretty awesome (having three players near the top of the standings),” Wolff said. “It just shows anyone on our team can play well. We’ve been taught to do that and I think we’re executing nicely.”