Today could be referenced as moving day here at Riviera Country Club – with teams trying to get into position for a run at one of the eight spots on the match play bracket board, tension is starting to mount. And there is a lot of it, because there are a lot of teams in the mix.
With 36 holes in the books and the chitter-chatter and casual small talk starting to dwindle, we have now entered serious mode. But, it’s safe to say I am confused. The lack of separation on the team leaderboard at this point is like trying to make sense out of ancient hieroglyphics.
So, exactly what have I learned from the second round of the NCAA Championship?
• I know that again, not a single conversation took place without some sort of mention about how unbelievable it is to be Riviera Country Club for the national championship and how cool this place really is.
• I know that the intimidation factors that might have been part of college golf years ago are no longer. A lot of that can be credited to the .500 Rule. Teams are very comfortable playing tough venues against the elite programs. Let me introduce you to Liberty University.
• I don’t know what is going on. Seriously, thirty-six holes are in the books and there are enough possible storylines to fill a month’s worth of magazines. There are teams and players that are in serious contention this week that were not considered to be in that position a few days ago. Someone told me Riviera is a feel-good place, sort of spiritual, and can trigger the best in one’s game. I think I might believe that.
• I know that I am predicting tomorrow to be possibly the most exciting day in the history of college golf. Sure, it’s not the final day and the championship is not directly up for grabs. But, seriously you have 19 teams within 12 shots of each other in middle of the team leaderboard. You ever heard that phrase “every shot counts”?
• I don’t know if having that many teams in the mix is a good thing or not. Is it alright that this famed venue is not providing separation? Or does it add to the excitement of this new format with a 54-hole cut to arrive at eight teams for match play?
• I know Auburn is probably just fine losing the tiebreaker to get the 16th seed and the morning tee time in the final stroke-play round.
• I know Alabama is the best stroke-play team in college golf right now. The Crimson Tide posted a 3-over 287 to lead by four shots after 36 holes. But, best stroke-play does not get you very much these days. Ask Oklahoma State.
• I know Alabama vs. UCLA for the national championship sounds predictable.
• I don’t know how North Florida vs. Liberty will sound.
• I know I am impressed with the job Ryan Hybl has done with Oklahoma golf program in less than two years. The year prior to Hybl taking over in Norman, the Sooners were ranked No. 80. Last year, Oklahoma cracked the top 30 and advanced to the finals for the first time since 2006. This year OU has done the same thing and appears to be on a path to the match play portion of this championship.
• I don’t know why the Pac-12 is sort of struggling. And yes, they are struggling despite what you all tweet me. A lot more was expected and it is still very likely one will win the title. But, I think it’s safe to say we all expected a little more. Four Pac-12ers are currently in the top eight, but three had to wiggle a way in late in the second round. This was thought to be a huge course advantage for the West coast schools coming in and it still might be.
• I know that three schools from the Sunshine state – Florida, Florida State and North Florida – are all inside the cutline. What were the odds of that?
• I don’t know exactly why we are seeing a leaderboard with very minimal separation. The Riviera layout, which plays to a par-71 and measures 7,292 yards, is just a lot of par holes with an occasional birdie and bogey to place on the scorecard. There are no disasters waiting on the next tee box.
• I don’t know yet who I will vote for to win The Haskins Award – college golf’s player of the year award. Alabama’s Justin Thomas is the leader at this point. The freshman has posted consecutive rounds of 70 and is within striking distance of the lead. But, what if Stanford’s Patrick Rodgers or Auburn’s Blayne Barber were to win tomorrow?
• I know that I have walked up the 53 steps behind the 18th green more than a dozen times.
• I don’t know why tournament officials are having the players do the same. Put a scoring tent in the area between the No. 9 and 18 greens.
• I know that we still have four more days of championship golf. While I still don’t think this is the best way to identify the best team in college golf, I know it is very exciting!
And one more thing, if there is something that you know that I don’t know or something you don’t know that I know for tomorrow’s all-knowing column, Tweet me @GolfweekRingler.