HUTCHINSON, Kansas – No. 8 Washington faced a long day on Saturday at the NCAA Championships from Prairie Dunes Country Club. Playing their washed out first round and their regularly scheduled second round, the Dawgs were strong all day until late in the evening when a poor finish cost them several spots on the leaderboard.
“It didn’t feel like a bad day until the last hour,” said head coach Matt Thurmond. “We were pretty steady all day until the very end when we just fell apart."
Washington is currently 6-over with still a couple holes of the second round to play Sunday morning. After a round of 1-under 279 in the morning, Washington had it to 6-under in the afternoon, before several costly mistakes. The Dawgs are currently tied for 16th, but half of the teams have yet to tee off for their second round, making the leaderboard hard to gauge.
“I don’t know why the slow finish," said Thurmond. "I don’t think we were tired because we have play 36 holes all the time. It’s obviously a tough course and high pressure conditions, but just didn’t execute and I don't know why.”
No. 3 Stanford was one of just three teams to finish both rounds and they lead at 12-under after the low round of the day, a 13-under 267 in the afternoon. No. 24 South Carolina and No. 1 Alabama are tied for second, but the Gamecocks have played just one round, while the Crimson Tide has played both. The Dawgs are in a huge mass of teams in the middle of the pack as just six strokes separate 13th from 24th.
Due to the delays on Friday, the format of the tournament is still unknown. All teams will finish their second round Sunday morning, but it’s possible a cut will be made for the third round. If the teams were cut to the top-15, the Dawgs are squarely on the bubble, needing a strong finish in the morning and possibly some help from a few teams that still have full rounds to go.
“In my mind, I am expecting them to cut to the top-15 teams after 36 holes,” said Thurmond. “That wouldn’t surprise me. We need to go out and play well on those final holes and then sit around and hope. We sure hope we get to play more. If we get a another full round, I think we’ll be fine.”
Corey Pereira is the Dawgs top individual after making three birdies and two bogeys in the opening round for a 1-under 69. He kept it going in round two with a birdie and an eagle on the front nine to get to 4-under for the championship until four bogeys on the back nine brought him back to even par. Pereira still has the 18th to play on Sunday morning to finish his second round, but is currently tied for 39th.
Cheng-Tsung Pan was another Husky to get off to a good start, before faltering late. Pan had it as low as 4-under through 12 holes of his first round, but a bogey and a double-bogey dropped him back to 1-under. He finished that first round strong, however, draining a long putt on his final hole to finish with a round of 2-under 68. In round two, Pan made two birdies and two bogeys on the front nine, but had three bogeys on the first six holes of the back. He is currently tied for 54th at 1-over with three holes to play in his second round.
Jonathan Sanders entered the tournament coming off a dominant win at the NCAA Raleigh Regional. His success did not carry over initially as he played his first nine holes at 3-over-par. From there, Sanders stabilized and was the lone Husky to play better as the day went on. He finished round one with two birdies and two bogeys over his final nine holes for a round of 3-over 73. In the afternoon, Sanders made two birdies and just one bogey to get his round to 1-under with two holes to play. Sanders is now tied for 69th at 2-over for the championship.
Trevor Simsby was a birdie machine early, but also was making some bogeys as his driver was a bit erratic. In the first round, the Husky senior made six birdies and five bogeys for a round of 1-under 69. He was tied for 47th after the first round, but moved into the top-10 after birdying the first two holes of round two. From there, Simsby struggled with six bogeys and a costly triple-bogey. He dropped all the way back to a tie for 111th at 5-over for the championship with three holes left to play.
After double-bogeying his first hole, Chris Babcock was solid the rest of the way. Playing in his first NCAA Championship, Babcock opened with a round of 4-over 74 and then backed that up with 3-over 73. He is now tied for 135th at 7-over 147 as the only Husky to finish both rounds.
Washington will begin at 5 a.m., PT, Sunday to finish the final couple holes of round two. The Dawgs are scheduled to complete the stroke play portion of the NCAA Championships with the final 18 holes of the 54-hole qualifying, although it remains uncertain if that round will indeed be played.
The Dawgs will need to finish in the top eight of stroke play to advance to the match play portion of the tournament that begins Tuesday. Individually, Huskies in the top-40 overall will play the final round to decide the tournament medalist. The 54-hole score will carry over for the final 18 played on Monday. Both the individual finals and the match play can be seen live on the Golf Channel.