On To Match Play For Ducks
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Oregon women's golf team continues to make history, though the best chapter possible still remains to be written.
Fresh off the first Pac-12 Conference and NCAA Regional titles in program history, the Ducks on Monday wrapped up the stroke-play portion of the NCAA Championship tournament in second place, another program first. The UO women were 3 over in the fourth round Monday to finish 12 over in stroke play, three strokes behind Stanford.
The Ducks thus claimed the No. 2 seed into the match-play quarterfinals, and will meet San Jose State in that round Tuesday morning. The winner will advance to a semifinal matchup later Tuesday, and then potentially Wednesday's final — where Oregon hopes to contend for its first ever national title.
But first, the UO women were able to celebrate Monday's accomplishment: making it to match play, one year after coming up just two strokes short. Oregon finished 20 strokes ahead of the cut line to advance through to Tuesday.
"This was the dream; this was the goal," UO coach Derek Radley said. "This team is so special. To finish second in the stroke-play portion and cruise through to match play, we're just so solid from top to bottom, and that's the thing I think I'm most excited about as we advance to match play."
The Ducks also celebrated a fifth-place individual finish by senior Tze-Han (Heather) Lin, who finished at even par for the four rounds of stroke play on 6,340-yard Grayhawk Golf Club. Lin was 2 over on Monday, finishing six strokes behind medalist Rose Zhang of Stanford.
How It Happened: On a day when Stanford shot its worst round of the tournament, the Ducks struggled to take advantage early on. They took three bogeys at No. 1, two more at No. 3 and another at No. 4.
For the second day in a row it was the player whose score the previous round wasn't counted — in this case Sofie Kibsgaard Nielsen — who recorded Oregon's first birdie of the day. She put her second shot on the par-4 third hole within 5 feet, and made the putt to get to 1 under for the day.
Hsin-Yu (Cynthia) Lu and Ching-Tzu Chen then both went birdie-birdie at No. 6 and No. 7, and Chen made it three in a row at No. 8. Briana Chacon, meanwhile, stuck a wedge within a few feet of the pin to make birdie at No. 7, then made another at No. 9 to get to 2 under for the day.
At that point, Oregon had snuck into the tournament lead at 8 over, while Stanford had fallen to 10 over and Texas A&M was in between at 9 over.
The Ducks struggled after the turn, however, and began to slip back in the field. Lu and Nielsen each birdied No. 15, but the Ducks ended up playing the back nine in 2 over. A two-horse race for second developed behind the Cardinal, between the Ducks and Aggies.
Nielsen was Oregon's first player to arrive at 18, and she made a tremendous sand save to close out her round with a birdie. Three groups later, the Ducks and Aggies were tied with just four players left on the course. Chen made birdie to join Nielsen at even-par 72 for the day, while Texas A&M took a bogey to give Oregon the second seed into match play.
Nielsen rebounded from shooting 9 over on Sunday, a score mainly attributed to a tough three-hole stretch in which she was 8 over. She responded to that stretch by finishing out Sunday's round with seven straight pars, and she was even on Monday to give her a 25-hole span of even-par golf following Sunday's three-hole slip.
"Yesterday was hard for me to get over," Nielsen said. "I was struggling a lot mentally. I didn't hit the shots I wanted to, and this course just punishes you for that. But I just needed to get it out, and start over."
Nielsen was part of the 2021 team that went down to the wire hoping for a spot in match play before coming up short. Now, the Ducks are back in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2016.
"This year we had a lot of confidence coming into it," she said. "Last year we were kind of in the middle, and showed up to do our best, but weren't really sure we could actually make it. We did this year."
1. Stanford 289-292-283-297—1161 (+9)
2. Oregon 297-288-288-291—1164 (+12)
3. Texas A&M 292-297-288-289—1166 (+14)
4. UCLA 295-291-292-291—1169 (+17)
5. Auburn 296-290-299-290—1175 (+23)
6. Florida State 296-295-296-292—1179 (+27)
7. San Jose State 307-296-285-293—1181 (+29)
8. Georgia 303-291-298-290—1182 (+30)
9. Arizona State 302-290-302-290—1184 (+32)
10. Southern California 298-294-300-293—1185 (+33)
Ducks on the Leaderboard
5. Tze-Han (Heather) Lin 72-71-71-74—288 (E)
T17. Ching-Tzu Chen 76-73-72-72—293 (+5)
T31. Hsin-Yu (Cynthia) Lu 76-76-71-73—296 (+8)
T40. Sofie Kibsgaard Nielsen 73-71-81-72—297 (+9)
T52. Briana Chacon 76-73-74-76—299 (+11)
What It Means: The Ducks bring a lot of confidence into match play, but they can't get complacent. Radley knows first-hand how match play can produce upsets — when he was an assistant at Arizona, the Wildcats won the national title as the No. 8 seed in match play.
"It's a level playing field; all the strokes are wiped away," he said. "It's a fresh start, and anything can happen. But I love where we're at."
Up Next: The Ducks and Spartans tee off Tuesday at 6:20 a.m.