Friday, May 20, 2016

College / Women

Duke, Alabama among top-ranked teams to 

stumble early at the NCAA Championship

Duke's Sandy Choi and Alabama's Emma Talley
Duke's Sandy Choi and Alabama's Emma Talley (Tracy Wilcox)


EUGENE, Oregon – The man at the helm of the No. 3 women's college golf team in the nation didn’t quite expect this type of performance – 23rd out of 24 teams after one round –  to start the NCAA Championship, but he could see some sort of trouble brewing.
“I was a little concerned by our practice round yesterday,” and Mic Potter, Alabama’s head coach. “We were driving some out of play. They’d kick (the ball) back out in the fairway and hit a shot from there, with the thought, I won’t do this tomorrow. Well, why not?”
The question went unanswered and the solution didn’t appear in the meantime. Aside from freshman Cheyenne Knight, Alabama struggled with accuracy from the tee all day Friday during the first round of the NCAA Championship.

On any course that’s a recipe for underperformance, but especially when it comes to Eugene Country Club. The lay-out boasts thick rough and is so tree-laden that many drives in the thick stuff call for a punch out no matter the lie.
It didn’t help either that the Crimson Tide, which finished at 12-over 300 and 16 shots behind leader Oklahoma State, faltered on their approach shots overall. Nor that rising sophomore Lakareber Abe finished off her round with a quadruple bogey-8. Nor that defending NCAA Champion Emma Talley began the tournament with a 5-over 77 that dropped her to a tie for 101st.
“Honestly I had some bad luck out there,” Talley said. “I had several lip outs.”
It’s at best an extremely minor comfort for the Crimson Tide, but they weren’t alone when it came to top-ranked programs struggling on Day One.

Georgia, Golfweek‘s No. 4, is tied for 18th at 10 over, while No. 5 Florida posted just one better at 9 over in a tie for 15h. But both teams had missed the NCAA Championship last year. Sixth-ranked Duke, on the other hand, were national champions in 2014 and national semifinalists last year.
Yet, the Blue Devils could only best the Crimson Tide by a stroke, finishing the day at 11 over for a tie for 21st.
Like Potter, Duke head coach Dan Brooks said the signs of struggle were apparent.
“We’ve had a couple of weak spots that were showing up in the practice round, and we’re working through that,” Brooks said. “(For one), Celine (Boutier)’s not playing her best, but she has a great attitude and is doing everything she can to help her team out.”
What else may have hurt? Duke’s affinity for big numbers. On Friday, the Blue Devils had five double bogeys or worse. Only three teams (Washington, Furman and Texas) had more at six.
Apparently it’s not an anomaly, either.
“We’ve been struggling a little all season,” said Duke’s Leona Maguire, who avoided those big numbers in an opening 72. “We’ve had a few high numbers like that.”
Duke doesn’t really have time to peter the problem out. Brooks wasn’t panicking after the first round – the Blue Devils are only six back of the final eighth-place cut – but he’s also wasn’t saying Duke could just ease its way back in.
“(A comeback) is do-able, but we have to get right at this tomorrow,” Brooks said.
For Alabama, it may take a bit more of an overnight overhaul, as Potter got to the source of why the Crimson Tide’s tee-to-green game was so out of whack.
It’s a matter of narrowing the focus.
“Sometimes I don’t think our players realize how important every shot is. We’re going to need to get a grasp on that,” Potter said. “Emma (Talley) asked me to walk with her the last couple of holes she played, and all I did was say, ‘Here’s your target, hit your shot, that’s all that matters.’ But I got a feeling we weren’t entirely in that frame of mind all day.”
The good news? In a format that cuts the 24-team field in stroke play down to eight teams for match play rather than a straight up stroke-play format where the medalist is the winner, both teams can legitimately state they still have a chance.
Potter is pointing to last year’s result for hope.
“The only way we can look at it is Stanford was about in this position last year and won the national championship,” Potter said.
Well, actually Stanford was 17th of 24 teams through TWO rounds at last year’s championship. Crazy things can happen in match play. And in stroke play apparently, as Alabama’s and Duke’s fortunes showed on Friday.
Whatever the case, something has to change.
“We can’t play like we did today, or we can make plane reservations home,” Potter said.

Par 72. Yardage: 6,331
68 August Kim (Purdue), Haley Moore (Arizona)

71 Bronte Law (UCLA) (T19)
72 Leona Maguire (Duke) (T29)
75 Elizabeth Mallett (UNC), Charlotte Thomas (Washington) (T69)

284 Oklahoma State
286 UCLA
289 Washington, Southern California
291 Arizona

299 Duke (T21)
300 Alabama (23rd of 24)

Brigham Young excused playing on a Sunday

 by Pete Madden
The NCAA women’s golf championship teed off in Eugene, Oregon today, but the Brigham Young University women’s golf team has already played the third round.
What gives?
The championship is a six-day tournament contested from Friday to Wednesday with a cut after 54 holes, but BYU is a private university owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so the school has a policy against competing on Sundays in keeping with the Mormon faith.
According to Susie Arth at espnW, the NCAA made a scheduling adjustment to accommodate the players’ religious obligations. The BYU ladies played to Sunday pin positions to post their third-round score of 10-over 298 on Thursday and will return to competition Monday after sitting out Sunday, should they advance to the later rounds.
Naturally, the move has reportedly touched off a debate about whether the adjustment gives BYU an advantage. It was sunny on Thursday, but there’s a high chance of rain in the forecast for Sunday.

To view all the first-day scores