OOLTEWAH, Tenn. – This was not the same Honors Course that I remember from the final round of the 1996 NCAA Championship. Not even close.
On that final day, the wind blew, the course was hard as a rock and the greens were as slick and fast as a newly-polished tile floor.
It was close to the opposite Tuesday in the opening round of this year’s NCAA Championship at The Honors Course. No wind, hot and humid, and a layout still a bit soggy from recent rain, which made greens very receptive.
What does it all mean? Check out the numbers.
Of the 15 teams playing that last day in 1996, none broke 300. The low score was a 15-over 303, shot by champion Arizona State.
Among the 84 individuals, only four managed to shoot under par – the best being a 2-under 70 – and one other shot even par. On the flip side, 35 players did not break 80, including individual winner Tiger Woods of Stanford, who shot 80 – and still won by four strokes. The average score for the day was 78.65.
In Tuesday’s near-perfect playing conditions, it was an almost complete turnaround from 14 years ago.
Of the 30 teams in the starting field, eight shot under par, led by Oklahoma State and Florida State at 5 under. Only six teams shot 300 or higher.
Among the 156 individuals, 35 were under par, with Arizona State’s Jesper Kennegard and Augusta State’s Henrik Norlander leading the way at 4-under 68.
Another 16 players were at even par, and only 11 players failed to break 80. The average score was 74.28 – more than four strokes better than the last round of the last NCAA played at The Honors Course.
Rain continues to be in the forecast all week, but who knows? If the rain stays away and the wind picks up, you can bet the house that scores this time around will start inching closer and closer to those of 1996.