West: New Mexico looking for rally

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DALY CITY, Calif. – Postseason is a time when teams hope to be playing their best golf. That’s the case for Arizona State, which has posted eight of 10 individual rounds under par, and maintains the lead Friday at the NCAA West Regional.

For New Mexico, however, we might still be seeing a snapshot of its season.

The Lobos opened with an 8-under 280 and trailed first-round leader ASU by a shot. In the second round, with 10 of the 13 teams in the field recording sub-par rounds, New Mexico struggled to a 292 and sits in seventh place. The Lobos are just three shots behind the fifth-place Southern California.

The top five teams will advance to the NCAA Championship May 26-30 at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.

Oregon is six shots back of Arizona State followed by San Diego, Texas A&M and USC rounding out the top five.

New Mexico’s season has had its highs and lows. The Lobos showed potential with a victory at the National Invitational Tournament and a second-place showing at the John Burns. But recent outings at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational (14th out 16 teams) and the Aggie Invitational (T-8 out of 12 teams) have left question marks.

“The last two rounds have been kind of a microcosm of our whole season,” senior Steve Saunders (pictured) said. “I think we mitigated the damage pretty good today.”

The Lobos were able to make a few birdies to finish. Saunders went 2 under in his final three holes.

New Mexico coach Glen Millican also sees this week as a resemblance to the year.

“Probably not as extreme as the whole year because we have had a couple of tournaments where we finished down near the bottom and those are the ones where I was pretty surprised,” he said.

New Mexico did not have a disastrous day, but with all five players scoring between 72 and 75 and most of the field finding red numbers, it left work to be done.

“This course was real scoreable today, the wind was down and if you don’t go out and make putts and birdies, there is a good chance you are going to get passed and that’s what happened today,” Millican said. “We wasted a few shots today and just didn’t have anyone really get it going.

Despite being the No. 7 seed at the West Regional, the season-ending championship has been a fixture on the Lobos schedule. New Mexico has played in 15 of the last 20 national championships.

“We will just go out tomorrow and try to play a great one and see what happens,” Millican said.

HOT DEVILS: Arizona State coach Randy Lein knew when this team was put together it could be special. And for much of the season, his Sun Devils had not put the pieces together. That no longer seems to be the case.

In their last three events, the Sun Devils went win-third-third. Now with a six-stroke lead going into the final round, a regional victory may set the tone for a trip to the NCAA Championship.

“We are all waiting for that tournament where everything comes together and throwing out sub-par rounds is obviously something we like to do,” Lein said. “We are playing with confidence now.”

After two rounds, Arizona State players are averaging 69.8 strokes per round.

HOT ROUNDS: Oregon and San Diego each posted 10-under 278 in the second round for the day’s second-best score behind Arizona State’s 13-under 275.

Oregon’s effort helped the Ducks get into position to challenge Arizona State. One year ago, the Ducks placed second to USC at the West Regional.

Making the biggest charge up the leaderboard was San Diego. The Toreros moved from seventh to third.

“Our approach today was to give ourselves a chance going into the final round,” San Diego coach Tim Mickelson said.

If the Toreros can stay within the top five, they will advance to the national championship for the first time in program history.

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