Ringler: What we learned on Thursday at NCAAs
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The final day of stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Championship was almost too much to comprehend. It was a back-and-forth, who-is-on-first type of day. In passing, many coaches had their heads down and were grinding away, others just smiled because they loved the atmosphere this day presented. Players were talking to their golf balls and reacting to their shots in a much more animated way.
NCAA Men's Championship: Round 3
Check out images from Day 3 at the NCAA Men's Championship at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
After it was all said and done, what I know and don’t know as we head into match play (after the 8 a.m. PDT playoff between Kent State and Florida State to determine the eighth and final team) . . .
• I know that in the last four years, three of the NCAA individual champions have finished their rounds on the ninth hole. Good, bad or does it really matter? I say it does not matter. The college golf game has been molded into a team sport. There is little importance on the individual win. I am fairly certain Thomas Pieters would trade his victory for a tee time and an opponent Friday.
• I know the day ended with a complete mood killer. With play ending at 7:40 p.m. it was decided not to start the playoff to determine the eighth and final seed until Friday morning. This is a glitch and in my opinion one that needs to be addressed. Not a lot of options, but somehow this day needed to go as planned.
• I don’t know if it is that much of a shock that USC, which played host to this championship, is not advancing to match play. The Trojans are a top team in the country and only once all year did they finish outside the top eight. This field is certainly much stronger than any of their previous 11 starts this year, but playing at home with expectations can be difficult to overcome.
• I know that Kent State is good. Any coach who has played with the Golden Flashes this season will tell you that. Kent State is respected as a nationally known program that can compete and will have a legitimate shot - if it can defeat Florida State in a playoff - to win the national championship.
• I know that UCLA, Washington, Oregon and Florida State - if it wins the playoff on Monday morning - are the only teams that have played in the match-play portion of this championship. Will any of those recent experiences matter?
• I don’t know why anyone would not like the new way the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship Committee is having the lineups be determined for match play. Rather than let the Golfstat rankings decide the order, allowing the coaches to match up players is exactly what was needed in this format. This is something that should have been done from the start.
• I know three of the teams that have advanced to the next portion of this championship have won a title before – UCLA, Texas and California.
• I know the winning seeds have come from the bottom half of the top eight. The seed that has won the last three years: No. 7 (Texas A&M in 2009), No. 6 (Augusta State in 2010) and No. 7 (Augusta State in 2011).
• I know the winner of the last three NCAA Championships was ranked No. 14 (Texas A&M in 2009), No. 5 (Augusta State in 2010) and No. 8 (Augusta State in 2011) entering the week. This year, No. 5 (Auburn) and No. 8 (Stanford) are out, with only San Diego State, ranked No. 14, still playing.
• I know that I have always wanted to see Alabama in this match-play format, and finally we get the chance. Jay Seawell’s squad has four players ranked inside the top 55.
• I know Patrick Cantlay posted a final championship-best, 5-under 66. Big-boy course today, for a big-time player.
• I know the heavyweights are left with Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the country joined by Nos. 6, 7, 11 and 14. The playoff teams rank Nos. 16 and 19.
• I don’t know if we truly have a Cinderella, but I am sure Kent State can grab the tag if it advances on Friday morning.