'Bama authors a day of surprises at Riviera
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – High tide, low tide, ebb tide. That was the story of the day for Alabama in Tuesday’s opening round of the NCAA Championship at Riviera Country Club.
On the surface it would appear that it was pretty much a ho-hum, somewhat boring day for the No. 2 team in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
Coach Jay Seawell’s Alabama squad finished the day with a solid and most impressive 1-over 285 total.
The Tide breakdown was pretty even as Justin Thomas shot 1-under 70, Bobby Wyatt and Scott Strohmeyer added rounds of even-par 71s and Hunter Hamrick and Cory Whitsett shot 72s.
It’s the road taken that was more interesting.
The two highest numbers came on what could be described as routine rounds. Hamrick had four bogeys, two birdies and 12 pars while Whitsett came in with three bogeys, one birdie and 14 pars.
The top three players? Now that’s where the Tide’s ride flies high, sinks low and takes some hair-pin turns.
Thomas, a freshman who came in this week with victories in his last two starts (at the SEC and regional championships), was 2 over par after three holes, going bogey, birdie, double bogey on holes 10-12. He added another bogey and four birdies. By day’s end, his scorecard looked like this: 10 pars, two bogeys, a double and five birdies.
Strohmeyer made just seven pars and had six bogeys, but he also posted four birdies and an eagle.
Wyatt also had a double bogey and a trio of bogeys, but offset those with five birdies and nine pars.
The final tally from the Tide’s top three on the day: 26 pars, 11 bogeys, two double bogeys, 14 birdies and an eagle.
“That’s Alabama golf,” said a smiling Seawell after the round. “The more aggressive you are, the more chance to have scores like that. And those three - Thomas, Wyatt and Strohmeyer - are our most aggressive players.
“Some players are just wired differently. For me, I just let them keep doing what they do. As long as they play smart, I’m fine with it. The thing is, with us, it’s usually never boring.”
It’s usually pretty successful too, as Alabama has shown all season long. Among its five victories was a six-shot triumph at the SEC and a 26-shot routing at the Southeast Regional.
But, as Seawell said, that’s Alabama golf. And after Day 1 at this year’s NCAA Championship, that style of golf was good enough for a three-shot lead over SEC rivals Florida and Auburn.
If you’re one who thinks golf is boring, just follow the Crimson Tide around for a while. There will be plenty of twists.