By Brett Tyndall
Wire services contributed to this report
Duke roared out of nowhere with a record 12-under 276 to vault past Oklahoma State into the lead through three rounds of stroke play in the NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek,
The Cowboys, who trailed Texas Tech after 36 holes, will now have to make up three shots on the Blue Devils Monday in order to claim the stroke play portion of the championship. The field was cut to 15 teams after Sunday’s round and will be shaved to eight Monday for the match play portion, which begins with quarterfinals and semifinals Tuesday followed by the championship match Wednesday.
The main thing is to make it to the final eight, and Oklahoma State is in perfect position there with a 15-shot lead on eighth place Kent State. If there is to be a Bedlam meeting in match play, Oklahoma’s perch is a little more precarious as the Sooners are in fifth place after a 2-over 290 Sunday and have a 6-shot lead over ninth place Alabama.
Duke had rounds of 68 from Evan Katz, 69 from Chandler Eaton and Adrien Pendaries and 70 from Alex Smalley. As great as Duke’s day was, it could have been even better, as Eaton was 6-under with three holes in his round before playing his last three in 3-over.
Duke coach Jamie Green said that the 276 his squad put up was less a spark and more “an ember that’s slowly burned throughout the season.” Green credited his team for learning round-to-round this spring and learning their own games. He also spoke of his players picking small targets off the tee, leading to a lot of fairways hit.
“The fairways are actually pretty wide,” Green said. “There’s a lot of trouble once you get off the fairway, but we’ve done a nice job of limiting errant tee shots. We’ve had to search for a couple, but they’ve been solid off the tee.”
OSU was solid and seemed poised to take the lead until Duke caught fire. Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff led the Cowboys with 68 and 69, respectively. Freshman Austin Eckroat shot even-par 72 to stay at 3-under 213. The three Cowboys are all in the top-11 as the final round of stroke play approaches.
“We’ve put ourselves in a good position to go run them down tomorrow,” said OSU coach Alan Bratton.
Brad Dalke led OU with a 2-under 70, followed by Grant Hirschman with a 71 and Blaine Hale with a 72. Quade Cummins shot 77 and Garett Reband continued to struggle with a 78.
“Overall, I thought it was a solid day,” OU head coach Ryan Hybl said. “We had two guys under par and Blaine Hale shot even par. It was a little frustrating taking a 5-over because that’s one of the things we’ve been really good at this spring is not having to take rounds like that. We’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”
Duke’s 12-under showing was three strokes better than the previous course record, which was set by No. 6 Alabama during Saturday’s second round. The Blue Devils’ 10-under 854 is also a 54-hole record for competitive events played at Karsten Creek.
“I think they try to stay in their own world, which is the right way to go,” Green said. “But that being said, all five guys were playing pretty well. All five guys had it under par for a while, and for a good portion of the round. From a coaching standpoint, there is no stress because they are all firing on pretty high cylinders. There is a freedom because of that and I like to think that the freedom started before we even played.”
Clemson’s Bryson Nimmer is the current leader in the clubhouse after shooting a 68 to get to 9-under for the week. The junior broke the Karsten Creek course record during his first round, posting an 8-under 64 before following it up with a 3-over 75 in the second-round.
“I think all of us, anyone playing in this, is always aspiring to try and win,” Nimmer said about sitting atop the leaderboard through three rounds. “So, it’s always your goal to try and win the tournament, obviously. But on top of that, you are also doing it for your teammates because you want to put them in the best position possible. You have their backs in any way you can.”
No. 13 Texas Tech is the only other team under par through three rounds of play at Karsten Creek. The Red Raiders currently are 3-under for the week after posting a 290 on Sunday.
Monday, May 28
11:30 a.m. Tee time for fourth/final round of stroke play, top 15 teams and nine individuals not on an advancing team to compete
3-7 p.m. Live coverage on Golf Channel
7:10 p.m. Individual awards ceremony
7:25 p.m. Quarterfinal Match Play pairings determined
Tuesday, May 29
7 a.m. Match #1 and #2 begin (1st and 10th tees)
7:50 a.m. Match #3 and #4 begin (1st and 10th tees)
10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Live coverage (quarterfinals) on Golf Channel
1:30 p.m. Match #5 begins (winners of match #1 and #2)
2:20 p.m. Match #6 begins (winners of match #3 and #4)
3-7 p.m. Live coverage (semifinals) on Golf Channel
7:30 p.m. Semifinalist awards ceremony
7:45 p.m. Championship Match Play pairings determined
Wednesday, May 30
Approx. 2:25 p.m. Championship Match begins (winner Match #5 vs. winner of Match #6)
3-7 p.m. Live coverage on Golf Channel
Following Play Awards ceremony
Tickets: Tickets for day entry or for the session are available to purchase at the Karsten Creek entrance or atokstate.com/ncaagolf.
Pairings: Third-round play will tee-off on Sunday, May 27 at 7 a.m. CT. Pairings attached.
For more men’s golf information and to follow the action throughout, accesshttps://www.ncaa.com/sports/golf-men/d1.