No. 1 USC Clinches Spot In Third Straight NCAA Championships Match Play Bracket|
May 29, 2017
On a day when the winds swirled as much as the the top 10 of the leaderboard, No. 1 USC qualified for its third consecutive NCAA Championships match play bracket on Monday (May 29), needing every bit of the cushion it built in the first three days to weather a rough final round at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
The Trojans, now guaranteed three top 8 finishes for the first time since five top 7 results in a row between 1973-77, posted a 23-over 311 for a 72-hole 6-over 1158 (284-283-280-311), good for a tie for fifth with defending champion Oregon.
After a tiebreaker, USC was tabbed the No. 6 seed and will face No. 3 seed Illinois, one of the schools USC was paired with today. Should USC win, it will face the winner of No. 2 seed Oklahoma and No. 7 seed Baylor. On the other side will be No. 1 seed Vanderbilt against No. 8 seed UNLV and No. 4 seed Oklahoma State and No. 5 seed Oregon.
The Trojans, seeking the program’s first national title, were runners up in 2015, a semifinalist in 2016.
No Trojan was as sharp as they had been in the previous three rounds, but it was enough to advance. Playing the 18th hole at -1 (among counting rounds) to close the day didn’t hurt.
Senior Rico Hoey wrapped play with a 4-over76, but his strong work the previous three days paved the way for a tie sixth at 4-under 284 (74-68-66-76). Second a year ago, he is the first Trojan with back-to-back NCAA Top 10 finishes in over 20 years.
Sophomore Justin Suh entered the day at 7-under and, despite a 7-over final round, finished tied for 19th at even 288 (67-70-72-79) with one birdie on the day. Suh now has back-to-back NCAA top 20 results after a tie for 10th last season.
Freshman Cheng Jin tied for 35th at 4-over 292 (72-70-71-79), junior Sean Crocker, who finished with key birdies on 17 and 18, tied for 70th at 12-over 300 (74-78-71-77) and senior Andrew Levitt tied for 78th at 19-over 307 (71-75-76-85).
USC fell to Texas in the 2016 semifinals, 4-1, after defeating Vanderbilt, 4-1. In 2015, the Trojans defeated Texas, 4-1, in the quarterfinals and Illinois, 3.5-1.5, in the semifinals before falling to LSU, 4-1. USC’s only other NCAA match play action came in 2009 when Troy fell to Michigan, 3-2, in the quarterfinals in the first year of the format.
Only USC, Illinois and Vanderbilt have reached the NCAA match play in each of the past three years. USC and Baylor are the only schools to feature men’s and women’s team in the match play bracket this year.