At NCAA Championship, final round of stroke play can offer anything

Golfweek/Tracy Wilcox

At NCAA Championship, final round of stroke play can offer anything

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At NCAA Championship, final round of stroke play can offer anything

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – The final round of stroke play can be a lot like match play. It can be full of twists and turns or it could be a no-drama-filled snooze fest. We have seen each the last two years.

In 2015 at Concession Club, no teams ranked outside the top eight were able to climb the leaderboard. However, last year in Eugene, Ore., there were plenty of fireworks. The goal for that final round of teams from the outside looking in: win the day.

That’s what happened for three teams: Illinois, South Carolina and Oklahoma. The trio shot the lowest final round scores and each found a spot in match play the next day.

Although Illinois was only one shot out of eighth place sitting in a tie for ninth, the Illini charged up the leaderboard with the best score in the final round, a 4-under 276. For Mike Small and his team, it would extend the Illini’s streak to a nation’s best fourth straight trip to match play.

That round saw Illinois nearly win the stroke-play portion of the championship coming up one shot shy of Texas. Illinois would be slotted in the in the No. 2 spot for match play. South Carolina went from 12th place to seventh with a 277, but it was Oklahoma that drew most of the attention with its round.

The Sooners, matching South Carolina’s 277, started the final round in 14th place. Oklahoma was nine shots back of the eighth spot on the leaderboard and was able to find the final qualifying spot for head-to-head competition with its final round effort.

“We had a very good meeting the night before and coach just got us fired up,” said McGreevy, who led the way for the Sooners in Oregon.

McGreevy, who was a junior last year, reflected on that round from a year ago.

“We knew the course was playing hard last year and if we could keep all five guys in play and make sure we kept giving ourselves chances, we knew that people were going to shoot over par and if we could keep it around even-par we can make that jump,” said McGreevy. “It was honestly the most fun round I have ever been a part of. The holes were close together and we could see where everyone was at and each one of us were just fist pumping each other and making sure we could get every shot out of it.”

His 4-under 66 was the best round of the championship and it came on the heels of a third-round 80.

“It felt good, because I about let the team down and did not let us get to Monday in the first place almost losing the tiebreaker,” McGreevy said. “Being able to do that for my team was one of the best feelings I have ever had.”

Last year only nine shots was the difference between eighth and 15th place. Here at Rich Harvest Farms the difference is 16 shots. That larger spread will make it more difficult and we will see fewer teams with a legitimate chance.

“It was a tough task for sure, but it’s still just playing one round of golf. All we were looking for was just one good round,” McGreevy said.

One good round. Just win the day.

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