SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The first round of the NCAA Division I Men’s NCAA Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club didn’t exactly start the way Arizona State head coach Matt Thurmond had hoped. All five Sun Devils settled for a bogey on the par-4 first hole.
Fortunately for the host school things got better. The Sun Devils finished with a first-round total of 4-over 284, good enough for seventh place in the 30-team field and eight strokes behind leader Texas Tech, which managed 4-under 276.
There will be a cut to 15 teams after Sunday’s third round.
“We’ve been waiting two years for those five straight bogeys,” Thurmond laughed. “I don’t think people realize just how nervous you are, any golf tournament. Everybody is scared to death on the first tee, just hoping to make contact. That hole was playing pretty tough today. A birdie or bogey usually calms your nerves but a par, just you advance. In a way, five straight bogeys, I was relieved. Everybody’s just 1 over and you know they’re going to make some birdies.”
The Sun Devils managed a solid first day showing on the strength of the bottom of the lineup with No. 4 player Mason Anderson carding a 2-under 68 and No. 5 Cameron Sisk finishing at even-par 70. Ryggs Johnston posted a 2-over 72 while Chun An Yu carded a 4-over 74.
All noted the early jitters.
“Nerves, a lot of nerves. We want this really bad,” Andersen said of the tough first hole for the team. “I’m sure all of the guys were just a little shaken. We have to clean that up tomorrow.”
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Andersen’s round was highlighted by a birdie at the tough 520-yard par-4 18th. The hole boasted the most bogeys of any hole on the course with Anderson one of just four players to come away with a birdie. His second shot kicked off the fringe and on to the green and he drained a 13-footer for birdie. He is tied for fifth on the individual leaderboard.
“I got kind of lucky. On my second shot I pulled it and it kicked onto the green so it kind of worked out. The 13-footer I had was pretty basic, downhill,” Andersen said. “I hit it really soft and I didn’t think it was going to get to the hole and it just died over the edge.
Sisk was consistent with three birdies and three bogeys. He felt good about his round despite finishing with a bogey.
“I’ve been hitting the ball well lately. I have a lot of confidence in my game right now. But this place played like it was expected to play. It’s tough. It’s important to hit the fairway and really important to hit the green. Even from there it’s not easy to make a bunch of pars out there. Birdies when you can make them are important. It was a good day overall.”
ASU’s No. 1 player, David Puig, the Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year this season, was actually the score the Sun Devils tossed. He came into the event with a cumulative 25 under in his last 10 rounds with a stroke average of 69.2. But he finished with a 5-over 75, matching his worst round of the season. The native of Spain had four straight bogeys starting at No. 9.
The player topping the individual leaderboard is junior Cole Bradley of Purdue, who was best of the 26 players who bettered par with a bogey-free 4-under 66. Bradley, who qualified as an individual with his team not advancing, had four birdies and 14 pars with a 2-under on each nine.
He has now gone 37 straight holes without a bogey, his last coming on hole No. 17 hole on the second day of regional play at Sagamore Golf Club in Noblesville, Indiana, last week. His 66 is also the lowest score ever for a Purdue golfer in the NCAA Championship.
Among the other highlights of the day, San Francisco’s Soren Lind made a hole-in-one on the 205-yard par-3 5th hole and finished with an even-par 70.
The only other Pac-12 school in the field is Oregon State, which registered a 6-over 286, led by Spencer Tibbits and Carson Barry, both of whom finished with a 1-under 69. The Beavers are tied for eighth, right behind ASU.
The first players tee off at 6:10 a.m. They’ll go off in reverse order from the first day with Arizona State playing in the same group with Georgia and Vanderbilt at 7:27 a.m local time.
The earlier tee times are typically more conducive to better scores, so Thurmond likes where his team stands.
“The greens get firmer. It’s almost impossible to keep the ball on the green at 18. It’s a little long in the morning but the greens are soft and smooth, temperatures and wind are down. It doesn’t mean we’re going to shoot a better round tomorrow. You took the 15 best seeded teams and there were high scores this afternoon. Of the teams that teed off in the second wave there wasn’t anybody that beat us. Everybody has a morning and an afternoon time, so you add those two up after 36 to get a real idea where you are.”