FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Here are 5 Things to take away from the second round at the NCAA Women’s Championship at Legends:
1. Hometown favorite: Marina Alex was certainly on everyone’s short list as one of the favorites to win the individual title this week at the NCAA Championship.
Ranked No. 3 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings is enough reason, but toss in the fact that the championship is being played in the Vanderbilt star’s own backyard at the Vanderbilt Legends Club – where she says “I know every blade of grass out here” – adds to her potential.
However, her title hopes became a very difficult task after an opening round 5-over 77 that left her T-85 after the first day.
“A lot of factors going on,” Alex said “It’s nice playing at home, but at the same time it’s like that double edge sword. There is a lot of self-induced pressure.”
Vanderbilt coach Greg Allen agreed that the pressure of playing at home may have played a role.
“Marina is playing well and was playing well coming into yesterday, she just got a little distracted and I think the nerves got to all of us yesterday,” Allen said.
There were no nerves today. Alex posted a bogey-free 4-under 68 and feels she may have kept the door open at a shot at winning the individual title.
“I am definetly not out of it, but I have to continue on the pattern that I am on if I want to give a run at this. I am going to go out there and try to shoot as many under par that I can and whatever happens, happens,” Alex said.
Alex had finished second at the SEC Championship and third at NCAA Central Regional and brought a 72.3 scoring average into the national championship.
“This was the Marina that we have seen all year long,” Allen said.
Next week Alex will be playing as a professional on a sponsor’s exemption in the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
“I really shot myself in the foot yesterday considering how low the scores were. Just try not to worry about it and try to get myself in the next two days as close to even-par total going into the final round,” Alex said.
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2. The favorite role: Is this Alabama’s time? Mic Potter has guided the Crimson Tide to the elite level in the game, but the question coming into this championship is can his squad play four rounds of championship golf? To this point, they have.
However, if you look back at the last couple of years when Alabama has been mentioned as a favorite they have not been able to put all the pieces together. Two years ago at The Landfall, Alabama had a disappointing third round and went on to finish third. Last year in College Station, Potter’s squad struggled out of the gate and tied for eighth place.
“I don’t know what happened last year,” Potter said. “Sometimes when you are the favorite you expect a little too much and you try a little too hard and this is a lot looser team than last year at this time.”
You can make the assumption this team is looser because they have been here, been in this situation before and know what to expect. Brooke Pancake is making her fourth start in an NCAA Championship, Jennifer Kirby her third and Stephanie Meadow her second.
“Every year we have drawn on some of those experiences and if you use those experiences properly and do something with what you have learned you are going to get better,” Potter said.
Potter says winning is not the goal and taking that approach may take some of the pressure off.
“Coming here and winning is not our goal, our goal is to play as well as we can and we can’t control what anyone else does. All we can control is what we do,” Potter said.
If they continue to do what they have done winning may be the result.
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3. The golf course: Is this a championship golf course?
The scores to this point suggest that seems to be fine with just one team in red numbers, but let’s look at this from a different angle. The North Course at Vanderbilt Legends club plays to a par-72 measuring 6,377 yards, and is not overly difficult, with the exception of Alabama’s two rounds there is very little separation in the team standings.
So what sort of conclusion do we make of this after 36 holes?
Well, can a team throw 10 under on the board? According to the coaches’ general thoughts, the answer to that is yes.
The key here is this golf course is most likely not going to allow a top team to post a high number. There are enough make-up holes that can mask a bad round, which will keep a team from blowing up.
That means just one thing: If the likes of UCLA, Southern California, Duke or Arizona State can toss that double-digit under-par round then things could get interesting – unless of course that team is Alabama. If you need proof look at South Carolina today recording a 7-under 281 to move from T-18 all the way to fifth place.
Bottom line? The course will not allow a team to come back to the field. The marathon that is 72 holes is turning into a sprint and if a team wants to get in the game they had better get under-par.
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4. Match play: There is little chance that the NCAA Women’s Golf Committee has thoughts of moving in the direction the men have with their championship. But, match play is fun to think about at the women’s championship.
With the number of teams tightly bunched around eighth place – which is the number it takes to qualify for match play portion of the championship – how much drama would the third round bring? It’s probably not fair to compare the two, but it’s hard not to.
The last three men’s championships have been very memorable – not to say the women have not with Purdue winning two years ago and then with the way UCLA held off the Boilermakers on the back nine last year – but, those were isolated last-day excitement memories. With a cut to eight teams and three days of team vs. team competition, there is no doubt match play would be a big hit here on this golf course this week in Tennessee.
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5. Up & down
• UP: South Carolina. Behind senior Katie Burnett’s 5-under 67, South Carolina vaulted up the leaderboard into the top five at the midway point.
• DOWN: Duke. After an opening round 1-over 289, thoughts of Duke making a run this week appear to have disappeared with 14-over in the second round to fall from third place all the way to 12th.