Round 3 Recap: Homa wins individual title; Cal, ASU square off in match play

Cal's Max Homa won individual medalist honors and Cal and Arizona State finished in the top eight as stroke play wrapped up Thursday in Milton, Ga., at the NCAA men's golf championships. The Golden Bears and Sun Devils will face each other in match play beginning Friday, while Washington, UCLA and USC missed the cut.


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Not only did Max Homa finish atop the player leader board, but Cal surpassed Georgia Tech to take the No. 1 spot on the team leader board as well to earn the top seed going into the quarterfinals of match play. As a team, the Golden Bears shot 275 (-5) to make them 16-under on the tournament, six strokes lower than the second-place Yellow Jackets.  Homa won the tournament by going bogey-free Thursday and sprinkling in four birdies to card a 66 (-4) that got him to 9-under for the tournament. By beating out six golfers at 6-under, Homa did this:

 

Steve Desimone's crew now advances to the quarterfinals to take on conference foe Arizona State Friday morning at 7 a.m. PT with the hopes of claiming the school's first NCAA team title since 2004 and cement their place in the annals of college men's golf as one of the best to ever do it.


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It was looking so good for the Forks early in the week after they had the lead through Tuesday. It still looked good for them when they entered Thursday with a three-stroke cushion above the cut line. It looked even better early Thursday when Arizona State momentarily increased its edge on ninth... but then things got dicey. Lefty's brother's boys shot 3-over combined on their last three holes to fall into a four-way tie for sixth at 2-over with  New Mexico, UNLV and Texas A&M, meaning one of those schools wasn't going to be able to squeeze in. One-hole playoff, y'all:

Fortunately for the likes of Jon Rahm, Austin Quick, Spencer Lawson, Trey Ka'ahanui and Max Rottluff, they shot even par on the playoff hole along with Mountain West compadres New Mexico and UNLV while Texas A&M went 1-over, allowing the Sun Devils to qualify for match play as the No. 8 seed and leaving the Aggies as the odd squad out. A rough way to leave the Atlanta area for the Johnny Golfballs, especially so when considering an Aggie took a one-stroke slow-play penalty earlier in the day (same thing happened to UCLA's Jonathan Garrick on Wednesday). Ironically enough, Jon Rahm was in the same playing group as Texas A&M's Ty Dunlap - the Aggie who was assessed the one-stroke penalty - but was the only one of the threesome (UCF's Greg Eason being the other) to not be docked a shot. That decision ended up keeping Arizona State in the playoff and forcing Texas A&M into it, and the Forks took advantage. As for the Tuesday-Wednesday leader Rahm, he registered a 1-over 71 Thursday to be a part of that six-way tie for second, but I'm sure he's just happy his team is continuing on. Talk about drama, huh?


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The Huskies were unable to make that final push to get into the top eight, finishing Thursday's round 4-over to check in with a 54-hole total of 848 (+8). Thus, the run has ended for the Huskies, who finished in a tie for 16th with UCF. On the positive side, Ben Hogan Award winner and Washington's all-time wins leader Chris Williams had his best round of the tournament with a Thursday 68 (-2) to pull him back to even par overall. Unfortunately for the likes of Matt Thurmond, it is the last time the senior will tee off for the Dawgs. There were some other bright spots for the Dawgs as well, like this bird for Trevor Simsby on No. 2:

 


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After a pretty rough Tuesday and much better Wednesday, the Trojans fell in between the two extremes they set in the first two rounds, scoring 285 (+5) on the final round of stroke play. This gave Chris Zambri's side a 54-hole sum of 854 (+14) and left USC in a tie for 23rd with the Bayou Bengals of LSU. Sam Smith had the best round of any Trojan on Thursday, carding a 69 (-1), while Yi Keun Chang had the best three-day total of any Trojan, shooting even par today to remain at 3-under (tied for 16th).


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UCLA struggled again on Thursday, shooting 8-over for the round to fall to plus-18 for the tournament (858) and finish in 26th place out of 30 teams. The Bruins were unable to live up their No. 3 ranking largely because there was only one under-par round for a Bruin all week long, that being the Wednesday 67 shot by Pedro Figueiredo. However, Pontus Widegren did put together back-to-back even-par rounds over the final 36 holes to claim the highest spot on the player leader board for a Bruin - his 2-over after 54 placed him in a tie for 49th along with Cal's Michael Kim and Joël Stalter, Arizona State's Austin Quick, Washington's Trevor Simsby and USC's Sam Smith (and a handful of non-Pac golfers as well).

Here's the match-play format: Teams go head-to-head against each other - Cal vs. Arizona State, Texas vs. Illinois, Georgia Tech vs. UNLV and Alabama vs. New Mexico. All five of the team's golfers play head-to-head with an individual on the opposing team. Individual heads-up play is not determined by number of holes won (a golfer wins a hole if he has the lower score on the hole). Thus, not all 18 holes are necessarily played - if a golfer has a three-hole lead after 16 holes, that individual match is over. Whichever golfer wins the head-to-head matchup wins a point for his team, and the first team to get to three points wins the match. Semifinals will take place Saturday with the team finals coming Sunday.

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