NCAA men's golf championship: Oregon rides prodigious tear to advance alongside USC

GoDucks.com

Monday afternoon was one for the books at Rich Harvest Farms. A day earlier, defending national champion Oregon, which won it all in dramatic fashion last season, narrowly made the top-15 cut to qualify for the afternoon's play. The Ducks would still need to climb up to the top eight to live any longer, a task that seemed daunting at best -- so they were afterthoughts even on the Golf Channel's television broadcast for most of the day.

Never underestimate the heart of a champion.

Oregon

Oregon was still alive -- and that glimmer of hope was all the Ducks needed to scratch and claw their way into the promised land. Oregon shot a collective five-over on the day, a score over 10 strokes better than the rest of the entire field, matched only by leader Vanderbilt. The Ducks -- hanging by a thread just a few hours earlier -- finished their remarkable surge in a tie for fifth place with USC, making the eight-team cut by one stroke.

This was the Ryan Gronlund show -- especially down the back nine. The redshirt sophomore literally willed the Ducks through the cut, registering birdies on six of those holes, including four in a row to finish the round. He finished the day at two-under, and every single one of his birdies proved to be the difference between life and death for this Oregon team.

Following the conclusion of their round, the Ducks waited anxiously -- hoping to not be leapfrogged and pushed out of the top eight -- while other teams finished play:

All ended up working out, and Oregon is moving on to match play. The Ducks will face Oklahoma State in tomorrow's quarterfinal round. Fifth-year senior Oregon senior Wyndham Clark used to play for the Cowboys before transferring last year, a reunion that gives this high-stakes match-up added flair.

USC

While the Ducks caught fire on Monday, USC staggered. Stars Rico Hoey and Justin Suh, both in contention for the individual national title, shot four-over and seven-over, respectively -- finishing with only two total birdies between them. Hoey ended up tied for sixth place in the individual race, while Suh dropped to 19th. But the Trojans still did enough collectively to keep their spot among the top eight and advance to match play, which is something they've now done in three consecutive seasons.

That speaks to the strength of this program, which was on display throughout the entirety of the long weekend: Even though USC was a full 18 strokes worse on Sunday than Oregon's prodigious tear, the Trojans had still amassed enough of a cushion during the first three days of stroke play to survive and advance.

Tuesday is a new day, one that brings a completely clean slate. As the No. 6 seed, USC will face No. 3 Illinois in match play. And with veterans Hoey and Suh leading the way, the Trojans have as good of a shot as any of the remaining eight teams -- including fellow Pac-12 contender Oregon -- to capture the championship.

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