PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Wondering how the first round is shaping up at the 2012 NCAA Men’s Championship? We’ve got you covered, taking you beyond the leaderboards with our running blog!
With four of our college experts on the ground in southern California, each will keep you up-to-date with blogs, commentary and things to look out for throughout the day.
And off we go!
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Update No. 18: 9:35 p.m. EDT
Alabama has completed its round at 1 over, good enough for a three-shot lead over Florida and Auburn, both in the clubhouse at 4 over.
Freshman star Justin Thomas led the way for the Crimson Tide at 1 under, while Scott Strohmeyer and Bobby Wyatt carded even-par 71s. Hunter Hamrick and Cory Whitsett delivered 2-over 73s to round out Alabama’s four scores.
Thomas is one of 13 players currently under par and is T-10. UCLA’s Anton Arboleda shot a 4-under 67 to take the individual lead.
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Update No. 17: 8:56 p.m. EDT
The field is coming back to Florida, the low team from the morning wave. Alabama is the only team still ahead of the Gators, and leads by only two shots. All teams closing in on their final holes.
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Update No. 16: 8:43 p.m. EDT
Some day for UCLA’s Anton Arboleda. According to live scoring, he started with an eagle at the par-5 first, then got really hot on the back nine: five birdies through No. 17. Arboleda is at 4 under, and has moved ahead of the morning leaders. Another birdie at No. 18 would give him good cushion.
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Update No. 15: 8:22 p.m. EDT
Time for a leaderboard check. Alabama and UCLA currently are leading the NCAA Championship with six teams (Liberty, Stanford, North Florida, Washington, Florida, Auburn). right behind them. Of those eight teams, only Liberty is on the front side.
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Update No. 14: 7:48 p.m. EDT
Here’s how the top five players in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings stand in the first round of the NCAA Championship: 1. Jordan Spieth, Texas: T-34, +1 thru 13; 2. Justin Thomas, Alabama: T-8, -1 thru 13; 3. Dylan Frittelli, Texas: T-16, even thru 13; 4. Patrick Rodgers, Stanford: T-8, -1 thru 9; 5. Chris Williams, Washington: T-60, +2 thru 9.
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Update No. 13: 7:40 p.m. EDT
A pleasant surprise for Stanford (current team co-leader): Steven Kearney is even par after 11 holes, the second-best score on the team. Kearney replaced senior David Chung, the 2010 U.S. Amateur runner-up, in the lineup after regionals. Kearney is making his first appearance for Stanford since April 1, when he finished 61st at the Cardinal’s home event, the U.S. Intercollegiate. He’s made seven appearances this year, with his best finish a tie for 26th at the Prestige. He’s No. 337 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking.
Rodgers made the turn in 1-under par after two-putt birdies on the back nine’s two par 5s, Nos. 11 and 17. He hit hybrid to 20 feet on each hole. Rodgers, No. 4 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, has an outside chance at being the national player of the year if he can win this week. Rodgers, a member of the upcoming U.S. Palmer Cup team, has a sponsor exemption later this summer into the Travelers Championship.
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Update No. 12: 6:55 p.m. EDT:
Kent State’s Corey Connors and Florida’s Tyler McCumber lead the individual race at 3-under 68 (both played in the morning wave). Auburn’s Dominic Bozzelli and Cal’s Brandon Hagy are gaining on them, however. Both are at 2 under through 10 holes.
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Update No. 11: 6:40 p.m. EDT:
The low man in the 1 p.m. group off No. 10 tee is neither Jordan Spieth, the nation’s top player, nor No. 2 Justin Thomas. They’re both 1 over after eight holes. Cal’s Brandon Hagy, however, is 1 under. Hagy redshirted last year to pursue admission to Cal’s Haas School of Business, one of the nation’s best. Hagy, who went to high school about 30 minutes north of Riviera, won the 2011 New Year’s Invitational with a final-hole eagle to beat Florida first-team All-American Bank Vongvanij by one. Hagy also holed a 25-foot putt on the final hole of the Pac-12 Championship to force a playoff with Oregon, which Cal won.
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Update No. 10: 5:47 p.m. EDT:
The middle holes of Riviera’s back nine are especially brutal. Nos. 12-16 play back into a breeze coming off the ocean. Texas, Alabama and Cal currently are slogging through that stretch (which could help explain why those three teams have fallen out of the top 10). Oregon, Washington and Stanford are the next to play that stretch.
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Update No. 9: 5:40 p.m. EDT
Cal’s Brandon Hagy has chipped in twice in his past three holes. He’s 1-under through five holes, but clearly he’s clawing and scrapping and staying in the hunt for his team.
Riviera’s 10th gets a lot of attention, and for good reason. The 315-yard par 4 presents unique challenges. Oregon’s Daniel Miernicki and Eugene Wong showed some of them. The former drove over the green. The latter played short and safe. Both made bogey. Miernicki had to putt his ball some 40 feet right because a large bunker stood between his ball and the skinny green. He three-putted from there. Wong’s wedge rolled through the green — which has virtually no back-to-front slope — and ended up behind the same bunker. His chip ran 15 feet.
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Update No. 8: 5:20 p.m. EDT
In the intergalactice match-up between Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, Spieth is even through five holes and Thomas is 2 over. Spieth has been fooled by Riviera’s greens a few times, and Thomas has let a few shots get away from him.
Meanwhile on the leaderboard, North Florida (-5) and San Diego State (-3) have cruised to the top of the leaderboard. Alabama also is at 3 under.
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Update No. 7: 4:50 p.m. EDT
The largest crowd of the day is with the Patrick Cantlay/Blayne Barber/Jeffrey Kang group. Another marquee group — which consists of Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Brandon Hagy — is about 50 yards away.
In other news, there’s been a lot of attention paid to Jason Dufner’s appearance at the NCAA Championship (he’s with his alma mater, Auburn). He’s not the only PGA Tour player at Riviera this week. Bob Estes is out supporting his alma mater, top-ranked Texas.
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Update No. 6: 4:25 p.m. EDT
First real fireworks of the first round: USC’s Steve Lim pitches in for eagle at the par-5 first. Must be the home-course advantage.
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Update No. 5: 4:10 p.m. EDT
There doesn’t seem to be an advantage to starting on No. 1 or No. 10 today. After the opening hole, each side contains a number of holes that play back into an ocean wind. It’s a tough test no matter which side a team plays first.
Without even having five players on the course yet, Alabama already is 4 under. Bobby Wyatt birdied the second, but Scott Strohmeyer is the early hero. He eagled No. 2 then followed with birdie at No. 3. UCLA, USC, Auburn and Texas are the only teams under par right now. Keep in mind, it’s very early in the day.
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Update No. 4: 3:50 p.m. EDT
The top-ranked teams are heading to No. 1 tee, and thanks to a birdie by Texas’ No. 5 player Cody Gribble, the Longhorns immediately have a lead. Could this be indicative of the rest of stroke play? Meanwhile, Florida has the lead in the clubhouse with a 4-over 288.
Speaking of the tee, many players starting on No. 10 are pulling hybrids for what often is called the best short par 4 in golf. But not Cal. The Golden Bears keep pulling driver and the reality is, there are a lot of ways to play this hole. Cal’s Max Homa hammered a driver but put the next shot in a bunker, Alabama’s Cory Whitsett hit 3-wood and Texas’ Julio Vegas used a hybrid and laid way back.
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Update No. 3: 3:30 p.m. EDT
The morning wave of players are approaching their final holes, and the Iowa Hawkeyes are one of a handful of teams bouncing in and out of the early lead. Iowa freshman Joseph Winslow, who missed the entire fall because of a bad bout of pneumonia then injured a hip playing volleyball late this spring, is in with 69. So far, that’s the second-lowest score of the morning.
Winslow reports that Riviera is playing firmer and faster than it did in the practice round. As winds pick up, and with no humidity, the greens will only become more difficult to hold. Kudos to the maintenance crew for getting out to the course and putting water on some of the trickier ones, like No. 2.
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Update No. 2: 3 p.m. EDT
There isn’t much separation on the leaderboard as teams head down the back nine to conclude the morning session. Iowa and Memphis are both at 3 over, while Oklahoma, East Carolina and Florida are all three back at 6 over.
Kent State’s Corey Conners is 3 under thru 16 holes to hold the lead on the individual side. There are three players at 2 under, including East Carolina standout Harold Varner. Only nine players are under par on the day, with plenty of holes left to play.
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Update No. 1: 1:30 p.m. EDT
It is still early on Day 1 at the NCAA Championships, but someone might want to make a screengrab of the current leaderboard for Tulsa – they are the only ones under par (of course, they are in their opening holes).
The bulk of the favored schools – Texas, Alabama, UCLA, USC, California – don’t tee off until the afternoon, so some of the unheralded teams have a chance to post an early score and see how it stacks up against the big boys.
Two top-20 teams – Florida and Florida State – are on their back nines and sitting at 2 over.