NCAA men's golf championship: Oregon rides déjà vu into the national semifinal
Last season, a seven-foot putt for birdie stood between golfer Sulman Raza and an Oregon national championship. He sunk it to beat Texas' Taylor Funk -- son of PGA Tour champion Fred Funk -- and seal a championship for the Ducks.
Around midday Tuesday, Raza faced another seven-foot putt for birdie to beat another opponent of PGA championship bloodline. This time, it was Oklahoma State's Hayden Wood -- son of Willie Wood.
Once again, Raza drained the putt to a roar from his teammates. Defending national champion Oregon is riding deja vu. The Ducks would have it no other way: So far, it's taken them all the way to the national semifinal.
"It was the same distance, same kind of read [as last year's putt to win the national title]," Raza said. "I just played it a little bit outside the left edge with dying speed like last time -- it felt great."
Oregon, in turn, is playing great. The Ducks made up eight shots on Monday during a torrid surge to overtake the cut and survive into Tuesday's match play, where they dispatched Oklahoma State 3-2. Oregon advances to face top-seeded Vanderbilt this afternoon in the national semifinal.
— Oregon Men's Golf (@OregonMGolf) May 30, 2017
Raza, Ryan Gronlund, and Edwin Yi all won their head-to-head match-ups against the Cowboys to clinch the best-of-five format. This next semifinal pairing should be fun, as the Commodores are the only other team in the field as hot as Oregon: Both squads shot over 10 strokes better than the rest of the field yesterday, so something must give in the clash of titans this afternoon.
The Ducks just hope for the deja vu to keep flowing. They're enjoying how familiar this NCAA golf championship is starting to feel.
Oregon is the Pac-12's final hope for another national title in this tournament, as Illinois eliminated USC 3-1-1 in match play. The Trojans were one of the favorites entering the tournament, but they stumbled in Monday's final round of stroke play -- barely hanging on to a spot in match play -- before netting only one win against the Illini.
That victory belonged to freshman Cheng Jin, who beat Illinois' Michael Feagles. USC stars Rico Hoey -- who finished second individually at last year's tournament -- and Justin Suh were unable to win their matches, and their losses sealed the Trojans' fate.
Still, it was a campaign of accomplishment for USC. The Trojans reached match play at the NCAA championship, reserved for the top eight teams, for the third straight year.
— USC Mens Golf (@USCMensGolf) May 30, 2017