NCAA Championship: Usual suspects in early lead as Oklahoma State, Cal's Collin Morikawa shine

Scott Halleran/AP

NCAA Championship: Usual suspects in early lead as Oklahoma State, Cal's Collin Morikawa shine

College

NCAA Championship: Usual suspects in early lead as Oklahoma State, Cal's Collin Morikawa shine

By

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The first round of the 2019 Div. I Men’s Golf Championship is in the books, and there are some familiar names at the top of the leaderboard.

Oklahoma State began their title defense Friday afternoon at Blessings Golf Club with a 2-over 290, finishing the round in first place.

Sophomore Austin Eckroat lead the way for the Cowboys, earning high praise from head coach Alan Bratton for his performance and leadership after shooting a 3-under 69.

“I hit really well out there today. I didn’t really make any putts or any good par saves but other than that I hit really well,” said Eckroat. “It’s a short break between rounds, so I just have to keep doing the same things that I did today.”

MUST-READ: Late coach still inspires WKU’s Billy Tom Sargent

“And then Matt and Viktor do what Matt and Viktor do,” said Bratton, referring to the Cowboy’s one-two punch of Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff, the top-two ranked players in the nation according to Golfweek’s Sagarin Rankings.

Wolff struggled early in his round but was able to bounce back on his second nine with four birdies to finish at 1-over par. Hovland, who was honored as the best amateur golfer earlier this week with the Ben Hogan Award, shot a 3-over 73. Rounding out the Oklahoma State team score was senior Zach Bauchou, who also shot 1-over.

Stanford sits in second at 3-over, followed by Auburn and Cal (+4), Texas A&M and Wake Forest (+8).

“It’s important to (start well) considering it’s a really hard course and this is the strongest field we play as college golfers,” said Wolff, who set a school record with five wins this season. “Every top team is here so to be able to show that we’re here to come out strong and keep on going is a pretty good statement.”

LIVE BLOG: Updates from Arkansas
PHOTOS: See the images | Live scores

The Cowboys started their day on the back nine, the more difficult half of the course, as Wolff can attest. The sophomore, who leads the nation with a 68.24 scoring average, made the turn at 4-over par.

“The biggest thing is to keep on being tough and not letting bad shots get to us,” said Wolff. “There’s no way you’re going to go 72 holes without hitting a bad shot or three-putting.”

Both Bratton and Wolff mentioned their excitement to get right back on the course early on Saturday morning for the second round on fresh greens after playing in the afternoon.

“We’re due for some good scores,” said Wolff. 

MEET THE FIELD: Breaking down every team
MORE: Why did BYU play its third round before the first?

When it comes to good scores, nobody played better on Friday than Cal’s Collin Morikawa, who shot a 5-under 67 to end the day alone atop the individual leaderboard. The Golden Bear senior is two shots clear of Arizona State’s Chun An Yu, Oklahoma State’s Eckroat and Utah’s Kyler Dunkle.

“I heard a lot about this course, that it was tough, challenging, and I’m always up for the test,” the Hogan Award finalist said of his first round. “When I came out here it really fit my eye.”

Morikawa said he played a great practice round on Thursday and that he loves the lines off the tee and thinks the course fits his strengths.

Playing the final five holes at four under par after making three straight bogeys on Nos. 11-13, Morikawa noted his game has room for improvement before Saturday morning’s second round.

“I didn’t make many up and downs, if not one,” said Morikawa, who’s 67 was 10 shots better than the day’s scoring average of 76.98. “I’m not going to hit the ball as great every single day, so I’m going to have to work with what I have and stick to my strengths. This is why I practice.”

Second-round action from the Blessings begins Saturday morning, with the first tee time at 6:50 a.m CT.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home