Alabama Still Leads NCAA Golf Tourney

Job One at the NCAA Men's Golf Championships at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., is to make the top eight teams after three days of medal play. Two days in, Alabama is in great shape to lead the field after three rounds and earn the number one seed for the start of match play on Thursday.

Although Alabama, the nation's second ranked team, was three-over-par 287 on Tuesday, that was a good score on the 7,292-yard, par 71 course. The result was that the Crimson Tide has a four-stroke lead over UCLA, the team that was considered by many to be the favorite because of the location of the tournament.

Bama shot 287 on Tuesday, two shots higher than the opening round that had given the Tide a three-stroke edge on Florida and Auburn after Monday. Both the Gators (plus 12) and the Tigers (plus 15) fell back, but UCLA stayed in touch with a three-over par score that matched Alabama. The Bruins are at 576 for the tournament.

Two other favorites in the tournament, number one ranked Texas and number six Southern Cal, are within range of the top eight. The Trojans rebounded from a terrible first day with a 286 for a score of 584 and a tie for 11th. Texas had a rough day, 11-over-par, but is at 585 and in a tie for 13th, but just two shots out of a tie for the magic top eight.

Three rounds of match play will determine the national champion on Sunday.

Cory Whitsett led the Tide effort Tuesday with a three-under-par round of 68 that pulled him to fifth individually at 141. Whitsett's 68 tied for the low round of the day.

Justin Thomas, the Tide freshman who was Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, had his second consecutive 70 and is at two-under-par 140 and in fourth place individually. Thomas got off to a quick start on the front nine with birdies on the second, third, eighth and ninth holes to make the turn at 4-under 31. He sandwiched a birdie in between two bogeys on the par-5 11th hole before making double bogey on the 14th and bogey on the 15th. Thomas returned to red numbers with a birdie on the 17th hole.

Alabama Coach Jay Seawell said, "I feel really good about the round. I didn't realize the golf course was playing that hard until I looked at a scoreboard on 14. I was really proud of the guys. I feel like they grinded out a nice round today, when it was easy not to.

"A day like today, things can definitely get away from you. That is where Cory (Whitsett) stepping up with a 3-under, those are the things that change rounds. Our guys in the back were grinding, but they were three or four over par most of the day. To have a guy shoot 68 today, that was a huge help.

"I think playing in the morning was very advantageous. You could just all of a sudden see, as the winds picked up and the greens got firmer, the course get hard. This golf course will beat you up if you allow it too. You have to stay tough and strong."

Whitsett, a sophomore who shot two-over 73 in Monday afternoon's first round, said, "It was nice to come back in the morning and get some fresh greens. Poana is a great surface to putt on early in the day; it is really smooth. I was able to make some putts early, just kept things going, and then finished strong."

He followed up a bogey on 15 with a birdie on 16, which he said was important.

"I hit a good tee shot on 15, but just barely caught that right bunker and made bogey," Whitsett said. "The round could have gone one of two ways at that point. It was nice to stick a shot in there close (on 16), about eight feet, and make it.

"The pins were a little tougher today, but they were fair. You could get at them; you just have to hit a really quality shot. The lack of wind early helped me a lot. Obviously, the wind picked up late in the round, but it always does here."

Hunter Hamrick had his second straight 73 and is at two-over 146. Scott Strohmeyer was five over on the day and is five over for the tournament at 147. Alabama's non-counting score Tuesday surprisingly came from All-America Bobby Wyatt, who was six-over 77 and is six-over 148 for the tournament.

Behind Alabama at plus 4 and UCLA at plus 8 were Florida State at plus 12, Oklahoma and North Florida at plus 13, Washington at plus 14, Liberty at plus 15, and tied for the eighth spot were California, Kent State, Florida, USC, and Illinois, all at plus 16.

Alabama will play with UCLA and Florida State on Thursday in the final round of stroke play.

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