Thumbs up: Oregon | Thumbs down: Illinois


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OOLTEWAH, Tenn. – The stroke-play portion of the NCAA Championship is three days long, but some teams made pretty strong statements Tuesday during the first round. Others, on other hand, not so much.

Some thumbs up and thumbs down from Round 1 at The Honors Course.

Thumbs up

1.) Oklahoma State. This team has had me scratching my head at times this year, but the Cowboys came out ready to tee it up this week. Mike McGraw’s team is focused, hungry and determined to prove it is the best in the land. OSU is tied for first with Florida State. If the Cowboys play like the No. 1 team in the country, look out. Get those brackets ready, because it’s time to see who the No. 8 seed will be playing Oklahoma State in Round 1.

2.) Florida State. Trey Jones’ squad is good, but tied-for-first-after-the-first-round-of-the-national-championship good? “We are the most relaxed team in the championship,” assistant coach Chris Malloy said. “Our guys are relaxed, having fun and enjoying every second of being here.”

3.) Oregon. When you talk about the best team in the Pac-10, how many teams would you have ahead of the Ducks? By shooting 4 under in Round 1, the “Quack Attack” is only one shot back of the ’Noles and Cowboys. Oregon is a very good team, and its finish should not surprise anyone. With an opening round like that, the Ducks are sending a message that they should get more credit than some of their other traditional top in-conference foes.

Thumbs down

1.) Illinois. The Fighting Illini are a top-15 team, yet sit in last place. A lot more was expected from the Big Ten champs, and they have a lot of work to do if they want to get back into the match-play mix. Illinois is 17 shots behind the eighth spot on the leaderboard, but after its 16-over performance any title hopes might already be over.

2.) Texas Tech. Many people had high hopes for the Red Raiders entering the week. Coach Greg Sands’ team never looked comfortable in Round 1 and left the golf course tied for 27th with TCU. Nils Floren is ranked 11th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and teammate Chris Ward is ranked 28th. However, both shot 3 over and are T-90. When your 1-2 guys struggle like that, it’s tough to get to the top of the leaderboard.

3.) USC/UCLA. All the talk this year was on the strength of the Pac-10. A large part of that strength came from a talented young UCLA squad and an experienced USC team. The Bruins are tied for 16th, and their cross-town rival Trojans are tied for 20th. These schools were supposed to be “locks” to make the top eight, but now they might be cheering for other Pac-10 schools this the weekend. In Round 2, we will have to see how these two talented teams rebound . . . I mean putt.

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