ATLANTA, Ga. – Freshman Zach Wright certainly played like a seasoned veteran in his debut at the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships as he sank a hole-in-one at the par-three 15th hole and carded three other birdies on his round en route to a 2-under par 68 to guide the Tigers during Tuesday’s action at the Capital City Club.
Wright cracked the Top 10 of the leaderboard in a tie for eighth place as he was one of 12 players in the field to open their NCAA Championships with a 2-under 68 at the par-70 Crabapple Course.
Wright also paced the Tigers into a tie for 12th place in the 30-team field as they posted a team score of 5-over par 285 as part of the first wave of teams off the first tee on Tuesday morning. Most importantly, LSU finds itself just six shots outside the Top 8 of the team standings as they are tied with SEC rival Texas A&M for 12th place overall.
The eight best teams in this year’s field after 54 holes of stroke play will advance to the single-elimination match play tournament for the national championship that is set to begin with Friday’s quarterfinals.
The Arizona State Sun Devils exploded for a four-stroke lead after the first round with a team score of 10-under par 270 as Jon Rahm blistered the Crabapple Course with a competitive course record of 9-under 61.
Tournament host Georgia Tech posted a 6-under par 274 to finish the day in second place, followed by Alabama in third place at 5-under par 275, Illinois in fourth place at 4-under par 276 and California in fifth place at 3-under par 277. Rounding out the Top 8 of the team standings were Oklahoma in sixth place at 2-under 278 and Oklahoma State and Texas in a tie for seventh place at 1-under 279.
But Wright turned in the highlight of the day for the Tigers when he stepped up to the 15th tee with a 5-iron in his hands and 210 yards of course separating himself from the cup on the lengthy par-three. With only one swing of the club, Wright’s ball hit the front of the green and tracked right into the cup for the first ace of the NCAA Championships as he dropped to 2-under par for his round. He followed with a birdie on the par-four 16th hole before finishing with a bogey at the par-four 18th hole for a 2-under par 68 to open the week.
Wright also traded a pair of birdies at the par-five fourth and 12th holes with a pair of bogeys at the par-three third and par-four 14th holes to finish as the top Tiger of the opening round.
“I saw it land on the front side of the green and it just rolled in. It was great as I was able to see it go in,” Wright recalled about seeing his ball disappear in the cup at the 15th hole. “It was great to do it in such a big event like this. It definitely gave me a boost. I turned around and birdied the next hole. It was definitely a good way to finish my round.
“The course is playing really firm. You have got to be able to take advantage of the wedge shots that you have. With the long irons, it can be a little tougher. You can hit the ball anywhere since the rough isn’t up, but at the end of the day, you have to take advantage of the short holes when you have a wedge in your hands.”
The Tigers also received counting scores from junior All-SEC performer Andrew Presley and sophomore Stewart Jolly as each posted matching rounds of 2-over par 70 to finish the day in a tie for 66th place on the leader board. Sophomore All-SEC selection Curtis Thompson rounded out LSU’s team score in Tuesday’s opener with a 3-over par 73 to end the day in a tie for 95th place overall.
Junior Smylie Kaufman finished his morning in a tie for 142nd place in the individual standings with an 8-over par 78 in his first career round at the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships.
Rahm birdied 10 of the 18 holes at the Crabapple Course while carding just one bogey on the day to fire an opening score of 9-under 61 to claim a four-shot lead in the race for the individual national championship. The Sun Devil standout will tee off in Wednesday’s second round with a four-shot lead over Oklahoma’s Abraham Ancer (65) and a five-shot lead over California’s Brandon Hagy (66).
This year’s NCAA individual champion will be crowned following 54 holes of stroke play as the second round will be held Wednesday followed by the final round Thursday at Atlanta’s Capital City Club.
The Tigers will remain in their same pairings in Wednesday’s second round as they will tee off from the 10th tee alongside Auburn and Oklahoma State beginning at 11:20 a.m. CT. Live scoring of the championship will be provided by www.NCAA.com throughout the week as teams continue their quest for a national championship through Sunday’s title match.
NCAA DIVISION I MEN’S GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS – FIRST ROUND RESULTS
TEAM SCORES (Par 280)
1. Arizona State 270 -10; 2. Georgia Tech 274 -6; 3. Alabama 275 -5; 4. Illinois 276 -4; 5. California 277 -3; 6. Oklahoma 278 -2; T7. Oklahoma State 279 -1; T7. Texas 279 -1; T9. North Florida 281 +1; T9. Washington 281 +1; 11. Kent State 282 +2; T12. LSU 285 +5; T12. Texas A&M 285 +5; T14. Arkansas 286 +6; T14. Georgia, 286 +6; T14. South Carolina 286 +6; T14. South Carolina 286 +6; T14. Tennessee 286 +6; T14. UNLV 286 +6; T19. Central Florida 287 +7; T19. Florida State 287 +7 ;T19. St. Mary’s (CA) 287 +7; 22. Texas Tech 288 +8; 23. UCLA 289 +9; 24. Ball State 290 +10; T25. Florida 291 +11; T25. Southern California 291 +11; T27. Auburn 292 +12; T27. New Mexico 292 +12; 29. Coastal Carolina 293 +13; 30. TCU 294 +14.
TOP 10 INDIVIDUALS (Par 70)
1. Jon Rahm, Arizona State, 61 -9; 2. Abraham Ancer, Oklahoma, 65 -5; 3. Brandon Hagy, California, 66 -4; T4. Ian Davis, Oklahoma State, 67 -3; T4. Talor Gooch, Oklahoma State, 67 -3; T4. Ollie Schniederjans, Georgia Tech, 67 -3; T4. Justin Thomas, Alabama, 67 -3; T8. Zach Wright, LSU, 68 -2; T8. Brian Campbell, Illinois, 68 -2; T8. Rodolfo Cazaubon, North Texas, 68 -2; T8. Greg Eason, Central Florida, 68 -2; T8. Rick Lamb, Tennessee, 68 -2; T8. Thomas Pieters, Illinois, 68 -2; T8. Max Rottluff, Arizona State, 68 -2; T8. Nicholas Scott, Kent State, 68 -2; T8. Trevor Simsby, Washington, 68 -2; T8. Brandon Stone, Texas, 68 -2; T8. Julio Vegas, Texas, 68 -2; T8. Bobby Wyatt, Alabama, 68 -2.