Vanderbilt, the Southeastern Conference champion that is No. 4 in the latest Golfstat rankings, stormed to the top of the leaderboard Sunday as the field was cut in half after three rounds of the NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
The Commodores, with Matthias Schwab, a senior from Austria, leading the way, carded an 8-under 280 and stands at 18-under 846 heading into the final battle to determine the eight teams that will compete in match play for the national championship.
Three teams – No. 1 Southern California, No. 16 UNLV and No. 17 Oklahoma – are tied for second, a shot behind Vanderbilt at 17-under 847. Southern Cal matched Vanderbilt’s 8-under 280 total, UNLV, which had held the team lead after two rounds, carded a 3-under 285, and Oklahoma had a 4-under 284.
Big Ten champion Illinois, ranked eighth, is alone in fifth place at 14-under 850 after a solid 3-under 285. No. 3 Oklahoma State is sixth at 12-under 852 after a 5-under 283. No. 5 Baylor and No. 18 Virginia are tied for seventh at 9-under 855. The Bears posted a 1-under 287 while the Cavaliers came in with a 4-under 284.
Some of the other survivors of Sunday’s cut are eminently capable of moving into match play, including No. 6 LSU, which is 10th at 858, No. 14 Texas, the Big 12 champion which is 11th at 859, and defending national champion Oregon, the Pac-12 champion ranked ninth which is 13th at 865.
And how about a shout for the last survivor of the cut, No. 47 UCF, which is 15th at 7-over 871. seeded eighth into the College Grove Regional off a fourth-place finish at The American Championship, the Knights proceeded to win the regional team title. Only 15 teams will still get to tee it up on Memorial Day at Rich Harvest Farms and UCF is one of them.
One of the teams that UCF beat out is No. 2 Stanford, which just could not get it going at Rich Harvest Farms. The Cardinal needed something special Sunday, but could only muster a 299 that left them at 15-over 879.
Maverick McNealy, a senior from Portola Valley, Calif. and the No. 2 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), finished his brilliant collegiate career with a 2-over 74 that left him tied for 76th at 221.
Twelve shots behind Stanford, Penn State had to be pretty satisfied to finish tied for 24th at 27-over 891. The No. 48 Nittany Lions finished up with an 8-over 296. I’m not sure Greg Nye felt like he had a top-25 team on his hands when the season began last fall, but that’s what he ended up with and all five players who teed it up at Rich Harvest Farms should be back. More on how the individuals fared a little later.
Vanderbilt’s Schwab, No. 6 in the WAGR, is tied for third in the individual standings as he added a second straight 2-under 70 for a 9-under 207 total.
Theo Humphrey, a junior from Greenwich, Conn., and John Augenstein, a freshman from Owensboro, Ky., each bettered Schwab by a shot with a 3-under 69 and are tied for 22nd and 24th, respectively. Humphrey is at 4-under 212 while Augenstein, the unlikely hero of the Commodores’ match-play run to the first SEC title in program history, is at 3-under 213.
Also for the Commodores, Patrick Martin, a sophomore from Birmingham, Ala., is tied for 50th at 1-over 217 after matching par with a 72, and Will Gordon, a sophomore from Davidson, N.C., is tied for 95th at 223 after a 1-over 73, which Vanderbilt had the luxury of tossing.
Texas’ Scottie Scheffler, a junior from Dallas, has been boringly consistent as he grinded out his third straight 4-under 68 to lead the individual standings at 12-under 204. He leads an immensely talented field by two shots.
Mississippi’s Braden Thornberry, competing as an individual, is in second place at 10-under 206 after carding a 3-under 69.
Sharing third with Schwab at 9-under 207 is Illinois’ Dylan Meyer, a junior from Evansville, Ind. and No. 4 in the WAGR. Meyer carded a 3-under 69 Sunday.
Penn State was led by Ryan Davis of Berkeley Heights, N.J. who capped a really strong freshman season with a second straight 1-under 71 that left him tied for 59th at 2-over 218. Davis just kept getting better as the spring wore on.
Junior Cole Miller, a former Northwestern Lehigh standout, capped his breakout season with a 2-over 74 to stand tied for 66th at 3-over 219. Miller, the reigning Pennsylvania Amateur champion, had a bit of a letdown at Rich Harvest Farms after his stunning individual win at the Washington Regional, but that takes nothing away from a year that was, at times, spectacular, never more so than his remarkable 7-under 206 finish at Aldarra Golf Club in Sammamish.
Sophomore JD Hughes, a former Carlisle standout, finished tied for 127th at 229 after a 78 and Charles Huntzinger, a sophomore from Duluth, Ga., and Alec Bard, a freshman from New Hartford, N.Y., were among the group tied for 132nd at 230. Huntzinger is a better player than the one who finished up with a 77. Bard, on the other hand, gained some valuable experience at the national championship and his closing 2-over 74 was absolutely a counter.
You think there’s no golf on TV for Memorial Day? How about round 4 of the NCAA Championship when the individual champion is crowned and the eight survivors into match play are determined. It starts at 4 p.m. Eastern on The Golf Channel.