May 30, 2012
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. - Cal (295-289 - 584, +16) is tied for eighth place and right back in the mix to advance to match play competition at the 2012 NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship after tying for the sixth best-round of the day during the second round of stroke play action Wednesday at The Riviera Country Club.
"It was a solid round today and overall a good comeback from where we were yesterday," head coach Steve Desimone said. "Our ball striking was much better today and we made some putts, especially on the front side."
Cal is looking to add another first to a season full of them that has already included the first NCAA Regional and Pac-12 titles in school history, as well as six wins that doubled the previous school record and top-five finishes in each of its first 13 events.
Alabama (285-287 - 572, +4) currently leads the event by four strokes over UCLA (289-287 - 576, +8). Florida State (290-290 - 580, +6), Oklahoma (289-292 - 581, +13), North Florida (290-291 - 581, +13), Washington (296-286 - 582, +14) and Liberty (295-288 - 583, +15) are also ahead of the Bears.
Thursday's final round of stroke play begins at 7 a.m. PT, but the Golden Bears won't tee off until 12:50 p.m. in five threesomes along with players from Liberty and Kent State (293-291 - 584, +16), one of the four teams tied for eighth-place with Cal. The other three teams in the five-way logjam for eighth - Florida (288-296 - 584, +16), host USC (298-286 - 584, +16) and Illinois (295-289 - 584, +16) - tee off just prior to the Bears beginning at noon.
The top 15 teams in after two days will have the afternoon rounds in reverse order of standing beginning at 12:20 p.m. and running until the last tee time of the final group of Alabama, UCLA and Florida State at 1:50 p.m.
"You can hope for the best in terms of weather," Desimone said in reference to winds picking up later in the day the past two rounds. "But the forecast is for the same weather tomorrow as it has been the first two days. If that's it, so be it. We've got to go play."
A total of 18 teams are within five strokes of securing one of the coveted top eight spots that advance to match play quarterfinals beginning Friday at 10 a.m. PT.
"If you look at the scores from the conference championship and the NCAA Regionals, each day got better," Desimone said. "I'm confident that even with playing in the afternoon and in the conditions that will be here that we'll play a solid round relative to everyone else. I like our chances of sneaking into that top eight. I think we're in a good position."
Cal got off to a brilliant start Wednesday and at one point on the front side reached six-under for the day and five-over for the tournament on the famed par-71 course that is playing at 7,292 yards.
Brandon Hagy (71-73 - 144, +2) continues to lead Cal's efforts in the event and will enter the final 18 holes of stroke play tied for 16th on the player leader board. Hagy played a solid but mostly uneventful round on Wednesday as he made par on 14 of the 18 holes. His lone birdie came on the par-three sixth. His three bogeys were on the par-four eighth, par-three 14th and par-five 17th.
"I didn't make quite as many birdies as I wanted to, but I definitely hung tough," Hagy said. "I didn't quite finish the way I wanted to either, but still all-in-all it was a pretty good round. Another good round tomorrow will help the team and we should be able to make match play."
Max Homa (76-70 - 146, +4) made the team's biggest move, jumping 61 spots into a tie for 37th after a one-under par effort that was tied for the fifth-best round of the day Wednesday among the 156 golfers in the field. Homa relied on his putter in the early going as he one-putted each of his first 10 holes and despite hitting only four of his first 10 greens in regulation was four-under par after 10 holes. Homa had birdies on the par-four third, sixth, eighth and par-four 10th, while getting up-and-down for pars on each of the other six. Both he and Desimone stressed that he hit the ball better on the back nine but missed some makeable putts. Homa would end up with three bogeys over his final eight holes, giving one shot back each on the par-five 11th, par-four 13th and par-four 18th holes.
"It was a struggle to say the least in the beginning," Homa said as he emphasized that his putting prowess early on made up for his other struggles. "I wasn't hitting anything particularly well, but I hung in there. I knew that every stroke was going to matter today. I played great on the back nine and it hit it a lot better, but the back nine is brutal. I was really happy with one-under but there are some birdies out there, which will bode well for tomorrow."
Kim, who is tied for 69th overall, started both his front and back nines with birdies on the par-five first and par-four 10th holes. But he bogeyed three of the course's four par-three holes (6, 14, 16) and had another on the par-four ninth.
Stalter started and ended strong, playing his first five and final three holes in a combined three-under par, with birdies on the first, fifth and 16th holes - par-five, par-four and par-three, respectively. However, he was five-over on the 10 holes in between with a double bogey on nine, as well as bogeys on the 10th, par-four 12th and 14th. He is tied for 92nd overall.
One day after Pace Johnson (72-78 - 150, +8) made a huge contribution from his fifth spot in the lineup Tuesday with an opening-round one-over par 72, he struggled on Wednesday with a six-over par round that the Bears were able to throw out for the team score. Johnson started with a birdie on the first hole and was still one-under through five after a bogey on the par-three fourth that he answered with a birdie on five. But then the wheels fell off over the next four holes with back-to-back bogeys on six and the par-four seventh, a double bogey on eight and another bogey on nine. Johnson steadied somewhat on the back nine but still fell additional three shots into the back with bogeys on the 13th, par-four 15th and 17th. Johnson is tied for 84th overall, still one stroke and eight places ahead of Stalter.
"We didn't play great, but we hung in there and that's kind of what you need to do through two rounds," Homa summarized. "Tomorrow hopefully we'll catch a little fire and sneak into that top eight. I know it's going to be an intense day, and I know the guys can handle it really well. I'm expecting some really good things tomorrow."
"We definitely hung steady," Hagy added. "We were teeing off in the morning, so we knew we had to put in a good round to get back into it. I think we did that and put ourselves in position for tomorrow. The key is just to try to stay steady and not try to go for broke, or go for a bunch of pins, but just hit the center of the greens and work out from there. Depending on where we stand on the back nine we can adjust our strategy, but going into the day we definitely want to play somewhat conservative, hold our position and just let the birdies come to us."
Thomas Pieters (69-68 - 137, -5) is the only player in the field to break 70 in each of the first two rounds and will hold a two-shot advantage on first-round leader UCLA's Anton Arboleda (67-72 - 139, -3) and Florida's Tyler McCumber (68-71 - 139, -3) heading into Thursday's final 18 holes of stroke play in which an individual medalist will be crowned at the conclusion.
NCAA Championship (hosted by USC)
Pacific Palisades, Calif. - The Riviera Country Club (par-71, 7,292 yards)
TEAM LEADER BOARD (after 2 of 3 stroke play days/2 of 3 stroke play rounds/36 of 54 stroke play holes)
1. Alabama (285-287 - 572, +4)
2. UCLA (289-287 - 576, +8)
3. Florida State (290-290 - 580, +12)
T4. Oklahoma (289-292 - 581, +13)
T4. North Florida (290-291 - 581, +13)
6. Washington (296-286 - 582, +14)
7. Liberty (295-288 - 583, +15)
T8. Cal (295-289 - 584, +16)
T8. Kent State (293-291 - 584, +16)
T8. Florida (288-296 - 584, +16)
T8. USC (298-286 - 584, +16)
T8. Illinois (295-289 - 584, +16)
T13. Texas (290-295 - 585, +17)
T13. Oregon (291-294 - 585, +17)
T15. San Diego State (292-295 - 587, +19)
T15. Auburn (288-299 - 587, +19)
17. Central Florida (290-298 - 588, +20)
18. Iowa (290-299 - 589, +21)
19. Georgia (295-298 - 593, +25)
T20. Chattanooga (299-295 - 594, +26)
T20. Texas A&M (298-296 - 594, +26)
22. Stanford (293-302 - 595, +27)
T23. Virginia (306-292 - 598, +30)
T23. TCU (299-299 - 598, +30)
T23. East Carolina (295-303 - 598, +30)
26. Alabama-Birmingham (297-303 - 600, +32)
T27. Memphis (299-302 - 601, +33)
T27. Virginia Tech (299-302 - 601, +33)
29. Lamar (299-303 - 602, +34)
30. Tulsa (306-307 - 613, +45)
PLAYER LEADER BOARD - INDIVIDUAL LEADER (after 2 of 3 stroke play days/2 of 3 stroke play rounds/36 of 54 stroke play holes)
1. Thomas Pieters (Illinois) 69-68 - 137 (-5)
PLAYER LEADER BOARD - CAL INDIVIDUALS (after 2 of 3 stroke play days/2 of 3 stroke play rounds/36 of 54 stroke play holes)
T16. Brandon Hagy 71-73 - 144 (+2)
T37. Max Homa 76-70 - 146 (+4)
T69. Michael Kim 76-73 - 149 (+7)
T84. Pace Johnson 72-78 - 150 (+8)
T92. Joël Stalter 78-73 - 151 (+9)