Monday finish for NCAA Women's Championship now a sprint, not a marathon

Monday finish for NCAA Women's Championship now a sprint, not a marathon

College

Monday finish for NCAA Women's Championship now a sprint, not a marathon

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – For the second time in the past three years, the NCAA Women’s Championship has been shortened by 18 holes.

Thunderstorms rolled into northwest Arkansas halfway through Saturday’s second round and washed out play at Blessings Golf Club for the rest of the afternoon. That lost time forced the elimination of one round of golf.

What does that mean? It means that teams hoping to make a run at the top eight and a spot in match play have 18 fewer holes to accomplish that. Put another way, however, they have 18 fewer holes to go backwards, which is a good thing for those teams that have nestled in at the top of the leaderboard.

Duke is one of those teams that has been on both ends of it. At Rich Harvest Farms in 2017, when the stroke-play portion of the championship was also cut to 54 holes, the Blue Devils did not have enough golf left to make a run at match play.

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This year, that role is reversed for Duke, a team that is leading the way with a nine-shot cushion over Southern California. Texas, Arizona and host Arkansas are all perched in a good position. Those five are favored to advance to the next stage of this championship, where the top eight teams are seeded for match play to decide the national champion. Stanford, Purdue and Northwestern would round out the top eight right now.

“It’s disappointing,” Florida coach Emily Glaser said. “We all went through that initial disappointment of not getting that extra 18. But then you just have to suck it up and work with what you got.”

The Gators will have some work to do if they hope to play in match play for a second time in the past three years. Florida currently is 13th.

That’s the area of the leaderboard where things get interesting. There is not a lot of separation among the 10 teams between sixth place and 15th place – the difference is just 15 shots.

The field has seen the course play differently – at least when comparing the scoring averages for the first two rounds. In the opening round, the average was just under 80 at 79.93. However, the second round proved to be much better with an average of 76.23.

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What will the final round of stroke play bring?

“It just depends on the conditions. If the conditions are harder and you play a solid round then you have a chance to move up, but if its more scoreable it will keep more teams in it,” Glaser said.

Another team that hopes to have a chance is Illinois. The Illini are making their first appearance at the national championship and made a 24-shot improvement in the second round from its day-one 320 total. Illinois sits in 14th place and nine shots behind eighth-place Northwestern.

Momentum could be on the Illini side.

“We have nothing to lose,” Illinois coach Renee Slone said. “The more you see it, the more you learn and we applied some of that today. We need to make the most of the opportunities we have.”

Like every coach here this week, 72 holes would be desirable. But, with this championship having very little wiggle room when it comes to delays, 54 holes this week could create a lot of excitement on Monday when the first groups go off at 7 a.m.


     

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