Men's Golf Tops Baton Rouge Regional on Day 1
BATON ROUGE – The NCAA Baton Rouge Regional opened with a record-setting round Monday at the University Club as LSU's Sam Burns tied the collegiate competitive course record of 7-under par 65 to lead the No. 1-seeded Tigers into first place with a collegiate team record 12-under par 276 on the first day of action.
No. 3 seed Virginia finished the day six shots off the pace in second place with a team round of 6-under par 282, while No. 2 seed and defending NCAA Champion Oregon posted an opening-round 1-under 287 for third place as they were the only three teams in the field to break par on the day.
No. 4 seed Duke followed 15 shots back in fourth at 3-over 291 and No. 8 seed Kentucky wrapped up Monday's opener in fifth at 4-over 292 as they joined the race for NCAA Championship qualification.
Each of the 14 teams at the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional are competing for five qualifying spots into the 2017 NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championships to run May 26-31 at Rich Harvest Farms Golf Club in Sugar Grove, Illinois. Five will qualify from each of the six NCAA Regional sites across the country this week to make up the field of 30 teams at this year's NCAA Championships.
Teams looking to break into the Top 5 include Jacksonville (294) in sixth, Jacksonville State (298) in seventh, Arkansas (299) and Northwestern (299) in a tie for eighth and South Florida (302) in 10th place overall.
Tigers Tame University Club
The homestanding LSU Tigers took advantage of favorable scoring conditions early in the round as they turned at 9-under par before coming in at 3-under par on the back nine for a round of 12-under 276 and early six-shot lead over Virginia. Their opening round broke the previous collegiate-record score at the University Club of 279 posted twice before by LSU in the third round of the 2012 LSU National Invitational and first round of the 2016 David Toms Intercollegiate just last fall.
“If you get off to a good start it makes everybody more comfortable. That was really our primary goal today, to get as comfortable as possible as early as possible,” said LSU Head Coach Chuck Winstead after the round. “It played fantastic today. Anything even (par) or better would have been a great score today. You can kind of tell that with the scores. You've got three teams, I think, under par right now.
“Today was a great day, but if the wind gets up like it's going to the next couple of days, even par will be a very good score around this golf course. It will end up taking its toll on everybody out here.”
Burns set the pace for the hosts as he equaled the lowest round ever recorded in a collegiate event at the University Club with a 7-under par 65 to take a two-shot lead over Virginia's Danny Walker on the leaderboard after 18 holes. Burns wrote eight birdies and just one bogey on his scorecard as his round featured three-straight birdies on holes Nos. 6-8 and three birdies in a four-hole stretch on Nos. 11, 13 and 14.
“I made a lot of putts, I think that's kind of what gave me some momentum,” Burns explained. “I birdied No. 2, made a good putt there. Unfortunately, I hit it in the water on No. 5, the par-three. I kept fighting and got some putts to go in, so it was good to keep that up. Feeling comfortable is a huge advantage.
“Obviously, it's a marathon and not a sprint. We still have another 36 holes to go. All of us, the whole team, we just need to keep doing what we've been doing to this point and in the end be where we want to be.”
Three LSU Tigers finished the day inside the Top 10 as senior Eric Ricard finished the day three shots back in a three-way tie for third place at 4-under 68 with Oregon's Edwin Yi and Kentucky's Cooper Musselman. Tying for eighth place was senior Brandon Pierce, who opened with a 1-under 71 to tie Duke's Alex Smalley and Jacksonville's Raul Pereda.
LSU's sophomore All-American Luis Gagne closed out his round just outside the Top 10 of the standings in a tie for 11th place with an even-par 72, while freshman Philip Barbaree carded a 3-over 75 to tie for 32nd place.
Walker In Contention
In a field that features three of the top-six and five of the top-20 players in the country, the race for the individual title will certainly go down to the wire with Wednesday's final round the likely decider.
Walker is squarely in the mix after opening the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional with a 5-under 67 that featured six birdies against only one bogey on the day. After turning at 1-under par, Walker birdied four holes in a five-hole stretch on the back nine at the par-five 11th, par-four 12th, par-three 13th and par-four 15th to keep pace with Burns at 5-under par.
“I was pretty pleased with that,” Walker said of his opening-round 67. “After playing the practice round yesterday, I thought that even par or better would be a real solid score. “Yesterday we tried to putt on every part of the greens during our practice round, then after the round we worked on some speed drills and hit some long putts to make sure we had the speed down. Our home course has sloping greens, so it's not something we haven't seen before.”
Oregon senior Wyndham Clark, the No. 1-ranked player in the country in both the Golfstat and Golfweek individual rankings, opened with an even-par 72 to help lead the defending NCAA Champions into third place in the field. The Ducks wrapped up the day five shots inside the top-five cutline for NCAA Championship qualification.
“Based on our scores and some other people's scores, it was challenging. I think we're in a good spot, so we're looking forward for tomorrow,” Clark said. “It's a little different because most events you go into trying to win. We are, but at the same time, in the back of your mind you're like, ‘Alright, we just have to get Top 5 and we just want to make it to nationals.'”
Round Two Tee Times
After teeing off in the featured pairings on the opening day of the tournament, LSU, Oregon and Virginia are paired with one another again in the second round as the top-three teams in the standings as they tee it up in the second wave off the front nine beginning at 9:15 a.m. CT. Tuesday's tee times are scheduled to begin with the first waves at 8 a.m. on the back nine and 8:20 a.m. on the front nine.
Golfstat will provide live scoring of the second and third rounds at the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional as fans can follow all the action at http://www.golfstat.com. Fans can also join the conversation on social media at the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional and other regional sites across the country using the hashtag #NCAAGolf on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
NCAA BATON ROUGE REGIONAL – FIRST ROUND RESULTS
TEAM SCORES (Par 288)
1. LSU 276 -12; 2. Virginia 282 -6; 3. Oregon 287 -1; 4. Duke 291 +3; 5. Kentucky 292 +4; 6. Jacksonville 294 +6; 7. Jacksonville State 298 +10; T8. Northwestern 299 +11; T8. Arkansas 299 +11; 10. South Florida 302 +14; 11. Iowa 303 +15; 12. Georgia State 304 +16; 13. Loyola-Maryland 322 +34; 14. Alabama State 346 +58.
TOP 10 INDIVIDUALS (Par 72)
1. Sam Burns, LSU, 65 -7; 2. Danny Walker, Virginia, 67 -5; T3. Eric Ricard, LSU, 68 -4; T3. Cooper Musselman, Kentucky, 68 -4; T3. Edwin Yi, Oregon, 68 -4; T6. Jimmy Stanger, Virginia, 70 -2; T6. Daniel Pico, Jacksonville State, 70 -2; T8. Brandon Pierce, LSU, 71 -1; T8. Alex Smalley, Duke, 71 -1; T8. Raul Pereda, Jacksonville, 71 -1.