In tournament golf, it’s a given that you can’t win the first day, or even the second. But it helps to get in contention. And in the case of the NCAA Men’s Golf Tournament, it’s all about position in the early rounds because the field of 30 making the tournament will be sliced to 15 after 54 holes and to eight after 72 holes before the beginning of match play in the grueling tournament.
Behind the play of junior Robby Shelton’s 4-under-par 66 – the lowest round by any individual in the first two days of the tournament – 13th ranked Alabama turned in a 1-under-par 279 in the second round of the tournament Saturday and moved up nine spots on the leaderboard to sixth after 36 holes.
Alabama, one of only two teams to shoot under par Saturday, is at 9-over-par 569 (290-279) going into Sunday’s third round.
“What an exciting round,” Coach Jay Seawell said. “We got off to a great start, just competing and battling. You could feel it last night in our team meeting. I think the guys were able to relax a little bit today. The back nine is really hard. The wind started up a little bit, but I am really proud of all of our guys. To shoot an under par round out here is a big deal and I am really proud of how our guys responded.”
Shelton’s bogey-free round of 66 on Saturday was the lowest round by any individual thus far on the 7,014-yard, par-70 Eugene Country Club course. Moreover, Shelton now has recorded 28 consecutive holes of bogey-free golf entering the third round of play. He is in a tie for second individually after 36 holes with a four-under par 136 (70-66), just one stroke behind the overall leader Justin Suh of Southern California.
Alabama also got a sub-par round from Jonathan Hardee, who followed his even-par Friday round with a one-under-par 69. Freshman Davis Riley was also under par at 69 Saturday and is at 144. Tom Lovelady and Dru Love are both at 151.
“Robby looked about nine-feet tall today,” Seawell said. “He looked like that stud, first team All-America, best player in the country out there today. That’s who I think and believe he is and it was fun to watch. He had embraced this golf course. It sets up beautifully to his eye. It demands excellence and that’s who he is. For him to get a round out here without a bogey is a big deal. The four he made on the last hole was just exceptional.”
“I thought I played well today,” Shelton said. “To play bogey-free golf, especially out here, is tough to do. I am just hitting it really well right now. I’ve been able to hit a lot of greens and I am putting decent, so I am pretty pleased with that.”
With Saturday’s result, Alabama finds itself in good position to make the first of two cuts during the stroke play portion of championship play. The 30-team field will be cut to 15 after 54 holes. Those 15 teams will be whittled down to eight teams after a fourth round of stroke play. The eight teams will then begin three rounds of match play for the national title (1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, 4 vs. 5), which is slated to be held on May 31 and June 1.
Vanderbilt lead the tournament at 563, followed by Southern Cal at 565, Arkansas at 566, and Oregon and LSU at 568.