NCAA Championship surprises: Top teams flop while bottom teams thrive

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NCAA Championship surprises: Top teams flop while bottom teams thrive

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NCAA Championship surprises: Top teams flop while bottom teams thrive

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Things are starting to heat up at Blessings Golf Club.

The first three rounds at the 2019 NCAA Div. I Men’s Golf Championship have come and gone and the field of 30 teams has been cut down to 15  (and the top nine individuals not on one of those teams).

Blessings is a difficult course, and some of the nation’s best teams learned that the hard way by not making the top 15 cut for Monday’s final round of stroke play. On the flip side, a few surprise schools played their way into the top 15 and now have a chance of advancing to match play.

Here are the early surprises midway through the men’s 2019 NCAA Championship.

Arizona State and Georgia Tech

There’s no way to sugarcoat it. There’s no silver lining. The Sun Devils and Yellow Jackets just fell flat in the first three rounds. Arizona State and Georgia Tech entered the men’s NCAA Championship as the No. 2 and No. 4 ranked teams (according to the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings) and both failed to place inside the top 15 after 54 holes. Entering the week, both schools appeared to be locks for not only the top 15, but match play.

BLOG: Updates from Arkansas | Scores | Photos
PHOTOS: Best images from NCAA Championship

Arizona State was victorious four times this season, including a streak of three consecutive wins at the Lamkin Grips Classic, National Invitational and its own Thunderbird Collegiate. The winning streak also featured three different Sun Devils claiming medalist honors: Mason Andersen (Lamkin), Alex del Rey (National) and Chun An Yu (Thunderbird). ASU’s starting five featured two first-team All-Pac 12 players, two second-team All-Pac 12 players and the conference’s Freshman of the Year.

The Sun Devils finished fourth at the Pac-12 Championship and T-2 at the Stanford Regional before heading to the NCAA Championship. They were on fire coming to Blessings but cooled off quickly, finishing 16th, one shot out of the top 15.

After missing the NCAA Championship the last three years, Georgia Tech seemed on the right path to match play all season. The Ramblin’ Wreck won five times this season, with its final win coming at the ACC Championship. Led by Luke Schniederjans and Andy Ogletree, the juniors both earned three top-five finishes this season and are nationally ranked inside the top 20. Schniederjans finished at 10-over, while Ogletree was 14-over.

As a whole, the team had just two under-par rounds in three days of play, finishing 18th at 39-over, three shots out of the top 15.

Southern Methodist

If you’re looking for a team to cheer for, it has to be the Mustangs.

SMU played like a top-15 team all fall before an injury and incorrect scorecard led to a loss to the entire field at Stanford’s The Goodwin in late March. Just two months later, entering the tournament as the third-lowest ranked team in the field, the Mustangs are running like wild horses at the NCAA Championship, finishing ninth after 54 holes.

“The aura about the guys has changed,” said SMU head coach Jason Enloe after his team’s round on Sunday. “Everybody was kind of glum after the incident at Stanford, but I think we’ve finally got way past that.”

The close-knit group believe the players are better than their ranking shows, and they’re probably right. Despite being a young team with no postseason experience, the Mustangs are extremely confident, and back up that confidence with sophomore sensations Mac Meissner (+1, T-11) and Noah Goodwin (+8, T-44).

Ohio State

The Buckeyes finished the regular season seventh out of 14 teams at the Big Ten Championship, but earned a spot at the Myrtle Beach Regional, where they finished second. Ohio State ended the fall and began the spring with wins, then won its own Robert Kepler Intercollegiate before the conference tournament. All that said, OSU entered its first NCAA Championship since 2011 ranked 43rd in the nation.

Seniors Will Grimmer (+6, T-32) and Daniel Wetterich (+3, T-19) have been the leaders all season, and that trend has continued in Arkansas. Entering Monday’s final round of stroke play in 11th, if the Buckeyes can climb into the top eight, they may be primed to make a run to the semifinals.

Why? Experience. Their second win of the season came at the Big Ten Match Play Championship.

Chip shot

Georgia freshman Trent Phillips outlasted South Carolina’s Will Miles and UNLV’s Justin Kim on Monday morning to earn the ninth and final spot to make the cut in the individual race. Phillips won on the second playoff hole with a par. Kim bogeyed the first playoff hole and was the first eliminated.

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