Sunday, May 25, 2014

Stanford loses a heart-breaker in the semi-finals of the national championship while Cameron Wilson wins individual title

The Cardinal rolled into the NCAA national championship event with the momentum of having won its last 4 tournaments and 5 of the last 6 events.  One of 7 Pac-12 teams competing, Stanford comes in as the #3 seed in a 30-team field behind only #1 Alabama and #2 Oklahoma State.

Stanford is led by two of the nation's top 5 players, Patrick Rodgers, the Ben Hogan Award winner after 6 season wins tied him with Tiger Woods for a Stanford career best 11 victories, and Cameron Wilson, Ben Hogan Award finalist after his 2 season wins and 10 top ten finishes in 11 events.

The NCAA Championship is being hosted by one of the nation's finest courses, the par 70, 6,941 yard Prairie Dunes GC in Hutchinson, Kansas.  Prairie Dunes, designed by Perry Maxwell, has hosted many top events including the US Women's Open and the US Senior Open.

After a number of weather delays due to rain and lightning, the unique tournament format has been changed with three rounds (not four) determining the individual champion and the 8 teams moving to match play.  The 8 teams in match play are seeded with #1 vs #8, #2 vs #7, etc.  Two matches are to be played on one day and the final match on the last day.

After playing brilliantly during the 3 rounds of stroke play and leading the field by 9 strokes and earning the #1 seed, the top 8 teams moved into match play.  Cameron Wilson ended up becoming the 3rd Stanford player to ever win the individual NCAA title (Tiger Woods and Sandy Tatum were the others to do so) with his 71-63-70 204 total.  David Boote finished with a flourish and finished tied for 2nd with rounds of 73-67-65 205.

Match Play - Semi-finals vs #4 seed Oklahoma State
Stanford's remarkable season ended in heart breaking fashion with a 3 & 2 loss to Oklahoma State in the semi-final match.  The televised match went back and forth with all matches tied at the turn except for Patrick Rodgers' match in which he was 1 down after 9 holes.  As late as the 15th hole Stanford was up in three matches and down in two matches.

Cameron Wilson's match ended first, as he came from being 1 down through 6 and rolling in a 30-foot par putt on #7 to keep from going 2 down to crush his opponent, Ian Davis, down the stretch to win 4 & 2.  Next came David Boote's match that was tied through 11 holes and had him 1 down after 14 before losing holes 15 & 16 led to a 3 & 2 defeat.

“Yesterday, I was excited to be in that position, and of course you wanted to win desperately, but I had to put the team on my back this afternoon and it was staring me in the face,” Wilson said. “If I didn’t win it was my last few holes in college golf."  Wilson completed a wonderful Stanford career with two match wins and the individual national title which was bittersweet in the end.

Stanford's excellent freshmen, Maverick McNealy and Viraat Badhwar, were matched against the two top players for OSU by season scoring averages, redshirt freshman Wyndham Clark and senior Talor Gooch in the matches that would determine the outcome.  Playing in the first group, Maverick's match went back and forth and was tied after 16 holes.  After a loss to a birdie on 17, Maverick squared the match at 18 with a solid par as they moved on to play extra holes.  The first two extra holes were parred by both players as Maverick made a clutch up and down from a bunker on the 2nd playoff hole finishing with a solid 5-foot putt.  The final par 4 hole found Maverick putting for birdie from 25 feet, about 10 feet inside Gooch's birdie putt as both hit the green in regulation.  The long, curling 35-foot putt by Gooch went in and Maverick's just missed and their match suddenly ended.

Next came Viraat's match against OSU's top player Clark.  After being tied after 10, Viraat lost the next 3 holes to move 3 down with 5 to play.  Viraat fought back to win the next two holes and after halving hole 16 he moved to the par 5 17th 1 down in what became the crucial match.  Clark reached the par 5 in two some 20 feet away and Viraat next hit a brilliant long-iron second shot that covered the flag, rolled by the cup and ended about 5 feet away.

Clark two-putted for birdie and Viraat aggressively slid his eagle putt by on the right and needed to make a 4 footer to keep the match alive which he did.  On to the par 4 18th hole where Clark played well hitting his 2nd shot to about 20 feet above the hole.  Viraat, needing birdie to extend the match, hit another brilliant second shot that landed about 2 feet from the flag and spun back to about 10 feet below the hole.  After Clark barely missed his birdie putt, Viraat solidly struck his key birdie putt but it slid by the hole to end his match and give OSU their winning 3rd point.  The brilliant season had finally ended.

Playing in the final group, Patrick Rodgers, was paired against fellow Walker Cupper Jordan Niebrugge who played in this year's Masters due to his win at the US Public Links last year.  Patrick played very well with a 2-under 33 at the turn, making several saving putts to move 2 up through 10.  The match was evened through 12 but Patrick regained his 2-up lead and closed out the win 2 & 1.  Patrick's final match of his storied Stanford career was a 4-under 66 total.

Stanford ended tied for 3rd as another #1 seed failed to win the national championship as match play proved fickle for the best teams since it began in 2009.  No doubt in medal play format Stanford would be this year's champion as it carried a 9 stroke lead after 3 rounds of play.  Still it was a season for the ages as Stanford won 6 times, won the stroke play portion of the finals and finished tied for 3rd, had 9 individual titles (6 by Patrick and 3 by Cameron), won the Pac-12 Championship for the first time in 20 years, saw their top two players break the single season scoring average record while Patrick won the Ben Hogan award as the nation's top player.

Semi-final scorecards can be found below:
Semi-final scorecards vs OSU - click to enlarge

Match Play - Quarterfinals vs #8 seed Illinois
Stanford ordered it's 5 players in traditional fashion except having red hot David Boote coming off his superb 65 leading off with Rodgers and Wilson anchoring the team while Illinois strategically reversed its order so it's top players were matched against Stanford's younger players.

Stanford wins a hard fought back and forth match 3 & 2 behind wins by Viraat Badhwar 1 up, Patrick Rodgers 3 & 2 and Cameron Wilson 1 up.

Match Play results are shown below:
Quarterfinals win vs Illinois 3 & 2 - click to enlarge
After trailing much of the match, Cameron birdied the par 5 17th hole and parred the final hole to clinch the match for the Cardinal.  Viraat's close match turned on the 16th when Viraat moved 1 up and he finished birdie-par to wrap up the win.  Patrick was 2-down early but turned up the heat on the back nine to post his solid match win.

Round 3 - Stanford wins stroke play & #1 seed.  Cameron Wilson wins NCAA individual Championship in playoff
Stanford wins the stroke play portion of the competition by 9 strokes behind solid play from all 5 players to claim the #1 seed heading into match play.  David Boote led the way on round 3 with a brilliant 65 as he moved to a tie for 3rd in the individual competition which was won by Cameron Wilson in a 3-hole playoff against Georgia Tech's Ollie Schiederjans.  Round 3 scorecards and Cameron Wilson's winning 3 round scorecards can be found below.
Wilson leads Nerd Nation to NCAA Individual title
The Cardinal will face the #8 seed Illinois team.  The top 8 qualifying teams with their player scoring is shown below:
Top 8 Finish in Stroke Play Competition released the following story about Cameron's win:
HUTCHINSON, Kansas – Cameron Wilson won the 2014 NCAA men’s golf individual title Monday, prevailing by sinking a decisive birdie putt on the third playoff hole. Wilson edged Georgia Tech’s Ollie Schniederjans to win the championship at Prairie Dunes Country Club.

Wilson joined Sandy Tatum (1942) and Tiger Woods (1996) as individual champions from Stanford.

Earlier in the team tournament, Wilson fired a 63 during the second round on Saturday. The 63 was the second-best NCAA score ever by a Cardinal golfer, trailing only Notah Begay’s 62 in the 1994 finale.

He had rounds of 71-70 in the first and third rounds for a three-round total of 204 on the par-70 course.

“I really didn’t stray from my plan that much, and I didn’t beat myself up,” Wilson said. “Then when we got to the playoff, I was just thinking how cool it was. The sun was setting and the fescue was everywhere. We had the American flags out, and I’ve known Ollie for a while. He’s a friend … It was a really cool scene.”

The title gives Wilson bookend wins for his senior season on The Farm, as he was victorious at the season-opening Fighting Illini Invitational in September. Wilson added a third win at the Western Intercollegiate in April, and the NCAA title gave Stanford an individual medalist in each of the last seven events.

Wilson birdied the par-5 17th and bogeyed 18 to put himself in the playoff. He and Schniederjans matched shots over the first two holes – 18 and 10 – of sudden death.

On the third extra hole, Wilson knocked his third shot to within 10 feet on the 17th and sank the birdie putt to claim the national championship.

“It’s incredible, so glad I made that putt, this is surreal,” Wilson told the Golf Channel moments after clinching the win. “I’ve got to mention my team first. I’ve got to say how proud I am of my guys so far.  There is a lot of golf left, but I am really happy for all of the guys.”

Wilson, the fifth-ranked amateur golfer in the world, will now turn his attention along with the Cardinal contingent on another trophy. Stanford will be matched up against Illinois in the quarterfinals of the match play portion of the tournament to determine the team champion. The teams tee off Tuesday morning at 7:50 a.m. (CT).

Golf Channel will begin its coverage of match play with Golf Central pregame coverage from 2 to 4 p.m. (CT), with Golf Channel coverage of semifinal match play from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday’s coverage will re-air on Tuesday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

“I think we’re really fired up,” said Conrad Ray, Stanford’s Knowles Family Director of Men’s Golf. “I think to see the contributions across the board from all of our guys today in some really tough conditions, and the wind came up, we felt fortunate to have a good draw.

“We know that this is just the start of a lot more golf. It’s neat to see them all fired up and ready to go for the matches tomorrow.”
At 13-under through 36 holes, third-seeded Stanford (281-267-279) was 1-under on the day and nine shots clear of second-place Alabama and LSU.

David Boote (73-67-65) was in the zone throughout the final round with a 5-under 65. Boote tied for third at 5-under overall and ripped off three straight birdies before making the turn to go to 3-under. He nailed a 16-foot birdie putt on 16 and followed with a winding birdie conversion on 17.

Patrick Rodgers (67-68-73) entered the day in second at 5-under. He found himself at 1-under in his third round with back-to-back birdies on seven and eight. The back nine did not treat him as well and was plagued by four bogeys.

Rodgers, who ends his Stanford career knotted with Tiger Woods with 11 victories, placed in a tie for 15th. Rodgers had six wins on the season and tallied victories in five of six tournaments entering the NCAA Championships.

With the efforts of Wilson, Boote and Rodgers, Stanford had three players in top-20 for first time since 2007. That squad would go on to win the national title at Golden Horseshoe Golf Club in Williamsburg, Va.

Maverick McNealy (73-69-72) was 1-under on the back and carded a 2-over 72 to tie for 55th. Fellow freshman Viraat Badhwar (70-76-72) was 10-over for the tournament and notched three birdies in his final round.

Round 3 Scorcards
Cameron Wilson's Winning 3 Rounds - click to enlarge

Rounds 1 & 2 - Stanford takes the lead
After several weather delays on the first day suspended play, most of the field including Stanford started play on day 2.  After a mediocre first round 281 score left the Cardinal in a tie for 13th place, Stanford vaulted into 1st place to lead by 4 strokes with a brilliant tournament best 267 score (13 under par) in round 2 led by an equally brilliant 63 by Cameron Wilson.

Cameron's 63 was the 2nd best score ever by a Stanford player in the NCAA championships, bested only by Notah Begay's 62 in 1994.  In fact in the history of Stanford men's golf, only three other rounds were ever shot lower than the 63, a 61 by Cameron and Tiger Woods and Notah's 62.  The 267 team total was the second best team round of the season, only 1 stroke behind Stanford's 266 score at The Goodwin played at Stanford's home course.  Cameron's round left him 7-under par and in the individual lead on rounds of 71-63 134.  Patrick Rodgers was in 2nd overall after his rounds of 67-68 135 and there were several tied for 3rd one stroke further back. provided the following reporting about Cameron's great round:

“I had some good looks at the beginning of the round that I didn’t make, but I felt good about my game and knew that I would have a chance to shoot a low score,” Wilson said. “The soft greens today really helped out everyone.”

They certainly helped Wilson and Rodgers, who combined for 15 birdies and one eagle.

Wilson pulled off the shot of the day on his second time playing the lengthy 534-yard par-4 11th. After his drive found a left-side fairway bunker, he cracked a blind 8-iron from 192 yards away that landed three inches past the hole and pulled back into the cup for an eagle.

“I think it went it in,” he said as he made his way out of the bunker and around the corner to view the green. The cheering gallery confirmed in glee.

Wilson later chipped in for birdie on 15 and buried a round-ending birdie on 18.

David Boote 2nd round 67 followed an opening 73 to leave him at even par and tied for 28th overall. Maverick McNealy's 2nd round of 69 came after an opening 73 to leave him tied for 54th.  Viraat's solid opening 70 was followed by a 76 in round two to leave him tied for 92nd.

Round 2 scorecards are included below:
Round 2 scorecards include Cameron's 63 - click to enlarge

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