Here's my story previewing the NCAA golf championship:
The only time Macon’s Russell Henley and Taylor Floyd played in the same tournament during the 2009-10 college golf season was at The Brickyard Collegiate all the way back in October.
If they can match the results from that tournament at this week’s NCAA championship near Chattanooga, Tenn., they would probably be satisfied. Henley won the individual title at The Brickyard, while Floyd’s Augusta State Jaguars claimed the team championship.
The NCAA championship begins today at The Honors Course, and the field also includes Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern in the team competition. The 30 teams will play three rounds of stroke play, and the top eight teams after that will head to match play to determine the national champion.
“We’re all looking forward to it, and we’re excited about the chance to play for a national championship,” Floyd said. “If we can get into match play, we like our chances. We have players who are good match play players. That’s our goal, to find our way into the match play.”
Henley, the nation’s top-ranked player, won’t get a chance to take part in the match play portion of the tournament. Georgia failed to qualify for the team competition, but Henley won the individual crown at the regional to earn a spot in the NCAA championship.
The individual champion will be decided after the 54 holes of stroke play.
“I’ve never played as an individual (in a college tournament), so it’s going to be different,” Henley said. “But a couple of my buddies are going to come up to watch me play, so that should help. You don’t really plan on (the team not qualifying), but I’ll just have to be ready to play and move on from that.”
Henley is making his third appearance in the national championship, finishing 22nd in 2008 and ninth in 2009. He has won four times this season.
“The course is going to be hard off the tee and really demanding,” Henley said. “It’s a bear, but I’m playing well right now, and I’m looking forward to it.”
The Jaguars have played well throughout the season, although they have had some first-round struggles. That continued at the regional, where they stumbled out of the gate in the first round.
But Augusta State rallied to finish second in the regional.
“For some reason, we’ve had a bunch of first rounds when we’ve struggled,” Floyd said. “I guess we like playing from behind, but when we’ve put ourselves behind the 8-ball, we’ve usually bounced back and played well in the second round to overcome that. But we need to be ready to play right away in this tournament.”
NCAA golf championship
Today-Sunday at The Honors Club in Ooltewah, Tenn.
Field (in order of seeding): Oregon, Stanford, Oklahoma State, Washington, Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Southern California, Augusta State, Florida State, Clemson, UCLA, Florida, Georgia Tech, UNLV, Kent State, TCU, San Diego, California, Arizona State, Oregon State, North Florida, Duke, Tennessee, Penn State, Virginia, Illinois, LSU, Baylor, Georgia Southern
Individuals competing: Marshall Bailey (Virginia Tech), Nick Delio (Cal State Northridge), Rhys Enoch (ETSU), Robbie Fillmore (BYU), Russell Henley (Georgia) and Espen Kofstad (Denver)
Format: The 30 teams and six individuals will play three 18-hole rounds today-Thursday. At the end of the three rounds, the individual medalist will be crowned and the top eight teams will advance into match play to determine the team champion.