Ducks Charge Into Fourth Place Entering Sunday's Third Round
by Rob Moseley
Photo: Andy McNamara
EUGENE, Ore. — Turns out Oregon’s home course advantage just took a day to take effect.
A day after opening the NCAA Championships at Eugene Country Club with an uneven first round, the Ducks caught fire Saturday in the second round. The UO men’s golf team shot the best round by any team in the field over either of the first two days, 3-under 277, to jump 15 spots into a tie for fourth in the team score at 8-over 568. Vanderbilt led after the second round at 3-over 563.
The big move by the UO men came exactly one week after Oregon’s women also made the biggest Saturday move in the field. The Ducks on Saturday were one of just two teams to shoot below par, despite playing in the afternoon on greens that got progressively firmer on a warm late spring day.
“We were all anxious (on Friday) to get out here and start playing,” said UO junior Sulman Raza, who hit his approach on Oregon’s finishing hole Saturday, No. 9, to within 2 feet, setting up a birdie that put him at 1-under 69 for the day. “For me, I’ve had jitters at the start both days. But once I was able to finish my first hole (Saturday), I was able to relax and got into a groove.”
Raza’s 69 followed a 77 in the first round, which didn’t count toward Oregon’s team score. On Saturday, the Ducks didn’t count senior Zach Foushee’s 71 — which would have been their second-best score Friday.
Freshman Edwin Yi carded a 2-under 68 to lead the Ducks on Saturday, despite a bogey at No. 8. Yi’s eagle of No. 4 helped him go 4 under for a three-hole stretch beginning at No. 3, giving him a two-day total of 1-under 139 that left him tied for sixth individually entering Sunday.
Oregon’s No. 1 player, sophomore Aaron Wise, went bogey-bogey at Nos. 6 and 7 to finish even for the day, and for the tournament through two rounds. He sits in a tie for 14th among individuals entering Sunday’s third round. Thomas Lim also shot 70 on Saturday to round out the scoring for the Ducks.
The balanced effort was something UO coach Casey Martin hoped to see at this tournament, after a spring in which Wise has often carried the Ducks.
“That’s been our challenge all year,” Martin said. “Hopefully we can wrap it up in the right fashion.”
After Friday’s up-and-down opening round, Martin implored his team to stay composed and recognize the value of shooting par on the tough ECC setup. Out of the gate Saturday, it was clear the Ducks received the message.
With Oregon starting at No. 10 in the second round — on a course whose nines were flipped for the NCAA Championships — Yi had eight pars and a bogey on his front nine. He remained 1 over when he got to the par-3 third hole — which he birdied, as did each of the other three Ducks whose scores counted Saturday.
Yi then moved to the 528-yard, par-5 fourth hole. He crushed a drive some 335 yards, then took advantage of wind at his back to put a 7-iron to within 5 feet of the hole. Yi rolled in that eagle putt, then made another birdie at No. 5.
“When we play qualifying, you want to score well on that side,” Yi said. “That par-5, usually that’s the only one I can reach in two, so eagling that was a bonus.”
Wise also reached the green at No. 4 in two, but he needed three putts and settled for par. That and bogeys at six and seven left Wise in the position of having to accept a round of 70 that could have been much more.
He played with maturity on his front nine, executing smart approach shots that put him in position for manageable two-putts. An exception was Wise’s opening hole, No. 10, which he birdied after taking a bogey there Friday that included three sand shots.
“Getting off to a good start was huge,” Wise said. “I was able to hit a great drive down No. 10 and hit a wedge to within a foot, so that gave me some confidence. I was a little nervous on the first tee with all of those people out there.”
The difference Saturday, though, was that the Ducks were playing their second round with the pressure of being the home team. The jitters that stayed with them deeper into Friday’s round subsided after Saturday’s first hole — and the Oregon men took advantage to post the best round of the NCAA Championships by any team so far.