June 1, 2011
(STILLWATER) - Michael Weaver remained in the running to become the first Cal player to win an NCAA individual title by shooting his second straight round of one-under par 71 on Wednesday at the 2011 NCAA Championship. Weaver will begin the final day of stroke-play competition that will determine individual medalist honors tied for sixth place at two-under par for the tournament, three shots off the pace of second-round leader John Peterson (74-65 - 139, -5).
"Michael's hit the ball really well the first two rounds and if he hits the ball well tomorrow he's got a shot at winning this thing," said Desimone. "We've never had an NCAA individual champion, but we'd sure like one."
Cal (300-299 - 599, +23) dropped one spot on the team leader board from where it started Wednesday's second round into a tie for 16th place at the event being hosted by Oklahoma State at par-72, 7,416-yard Karsten Creek. The Golden Bears have a lot of ground to make up and several teams to pass in their attempt to move into one of the coveted top eight spots at the end of the 54-hole stroke-play segment of the event that advance to match play beginning Friday. Cal will begin Thursday's third and final round nine shots behind Texas A&M (289-301 - 590, +14), who currently holds the precious eighth and final position.
Cal was the NCAA winner in 2004 and finished sixth at the event in 1995 to mark the only two times in the history of the tournament the Golden Bears have finished among the top eight. Cal's other finishes at the NCAA have been 15th (1998), 16th (1999), 17th (2000) and 23rd (2010). All of the Bears' appearances other than 2010 were in the previous 72-hole stroke play format. The current format consisting of 54 holes of stroke play followed by the top eight teams advancing to match play has been in place since 2009, marking the first time match play has been part of the event after a 44-year absence.
Weaver posted the same totals of five birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey that he notched in Tuesday's opening round. Starting his second round on the 10th tee, his first nine holes consisted of three birdies and a bogey to put him two-under for the day and three-under for the tournament at the turn as he rose to as high as a third-place tie on the leader board. Weaver's first birdie came on the par-three 11th when he knocked down a 70-foot putt. He added birdies on the par-five 14th and 18th holes but made bogey on the par-four 17th. His second nine holes started with a double bogey six when he lost his first tee shot and had to take the accompanying one-stroke penalty. He then bogeyed the par-four fourth hole, but he got two of the strokes back with birdies on the par-four sixth and par-five ninth.
"Michael played a gritty round today, but just about every round out here is a gritty one," said Desimone. "There is just no give on this golf course. He really hung tough."
Max Homa (73-74 - 147, +3) hung around even-par for much of the day before bogeys on each of his last two holes on the par-four eighth and par-five ninth gave him his final score of two-over par 74 as he dropped two spots into a tie for 36th. Homa also had a difficult start with bogeys on the par-four 10th and 13th holes but was solid on the 12 holes in between, making 11 pars and an eagle on the par-five 18th hole with a monster drive, a second shot from 235 yards that he put on the green and a 45-foot putt.
Stephen Hale (75-80 - 155, +11) is the next Cal player on the leader board but dropped a dramatic 41 spots after an eight-over par 80 that started with a triple bogey seven on the par-four 10th hole. Hale did have a pair of birdies on the par-three 11th and par-four fifth holes, but also had a double bogey on the par-four eighth as well as bogeys on a pair of par-threes (15, 7), a pair of par-fours (16, 4) and a par-five (18).
Ben An (81-78 - 159, +15) managed to inch up four spots on the leader board but had another difficult round with a six-over par 78. The one birdie An managed on the par-five 18th hole was contrasted by seven bogeys, with one on the par-three seventh; five on the par-four 10th, 17th, second, fourth and fifth; and one on the par-five 14th.
Eric Mina (84-76 - 160, +16) improved dramatically Wednesday with a four-over par 76. His eagle three on the par-five 14th helped him bounce back from a double bogey on his first hole, the par-four 10th, and a bogey on the par-four 12th. He slowly slid to five-over par for the day with bogeys on the par-three 15th, par-four 17th, par-three third and par-four eighth holes, before making birdie on his final hole of the day on the par-four ninth.
"It was good to see Eric bounce back today, and I suspect he'll play better tomorrow," said Desimone.
The 30-team field is scheduled to conclude 54 holes of stroke play on Thursday, with the first tee time scheduled for 7 a.m. CT/5 a.m. PT. Cal will play with Florida and Michigan teeing off from the first hole at 8:20 a.m. CT/6:20 a.m. PT. Thursday's forecast is for partly cloudy skies with a 10% chance of precipitation, a high of 94 degrees and winds at near 20 mph.
Match play begins Friday with four quarterfinals before continuing Saturday with a pair of semifinals and concludes with Sunday's championship match. Action starts at 10 a.m. CT/8:00 a.m. PT on Friday and Saturday, and Noon CT/10 a.m. PT on Sunday.
"I wouldn't count us out but making up nine shots on a number of teams is tough," offered Desimone. "There are great teams ahead of us, so it will be a real challenge but we are certainly capable of playing four, five, six, or seven-under par. We're going to have to play an absolutely flawless round and get a few breaks along the way."
"We will have to have be more aggressive, especially with our short irons and when we're in good position on the par-fives," continued Desimone. "Whether we finish ninth or 30th it makes no difference. If you don't finish in the top eight you're going home. We'll be looking to try to pick up some shots tomorrow. We will pick our spots, but we definitely need to be more aggressive."
NCAA Championship (hosted by NCAA and Oklahoma State)
*TEAM LEADER BOARD (after 2 of 3 days of stroke play/2 of 3 rounds of stroke play/36 of 54 holes of stroke play)
PLAYER LEADER BOARD (after 2 of 3 days/2 of 3 rounds/36 of 54 holes)
PLAYER LEADER BOARD - CAL INDIVIDUALS (after 2 of 3 days/3 of 3 rounds/36 of 54 holes)