It wasn’t a torrid second round of the NCAA championships for the Colorado men’s golf team on Saturday. Yet it was for Tucker Clark, and that was more than enough to keep the Buffaloes in the hunt.
Much like last week’s regional tournament in Oklahoma, it was Clark who kept the Buffaloes afloat in the second round of a pressure-packed tournament, as his 3-under 67 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., was the No. 2 mark in the round and kept the Buffs in contention for making the team cut line going into the third round on Sunday.
Daniel Rodrigues of Texas A&M, who is in second place following the second round, was the only player to top Clark on the second round, carding a 4-under 66. Clark finished with a plus-10 80 in the first round, but was 13 strokes better in the second round. He carded four birdies against just one bogey.
Clark recorded a 5-under 67 in the second round of the regional, an improvement of 10 strokes over his opening-round score.
Colorado moved up six spots in the team standings during Saturday’s second round, finishing the day in a tie with San Francisco in 17th-place heading into Sunday. After posting a plus-12 292 in the first round, the Buffs, thanks entirely to Clark, recorded a plus-7 287 on Saturday.
Following Sunday’s third round, the field will be cut to 15 teams, plus the top nine individuals not on those teams, for the fourth and final round of stroke play. After that, the field is cut to eight teams that advance to the final rounds of match play on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Clark’s 13- stroke improvement was the largest in the field and the best in Colorado’s NCAA Finals history. His 67 was also the third-best score in the NCAA finals in team history, behind only a 65 by Hale Irwin in 1967 and a 66 by Ben Portie in 2002.
“I was especially focused after studying today’s pin sheet, and came out really focused on every hole,” Clark said in a release. “I hit it to those spots where I was thinking. I knew if I hit better irons today, I would post a lower number. I’ve had a lot of confidence because I’ve been hitting the ball well the last month, so I felt the first round was an aberration.
“Today, I drove it well, but my iron play was much improved and I wound up with somewhere in the 20s in putts. I just came in with the same mentality that I carried into yesterday, but I wanted to focus on my game more instead of the attention around me and who was watching.”
The Buffs finished the first round only three strokes behind the projected cut line but facing seven teams between them and that cut line. CU finished play in the second round still only three strokes behind the projected cut line, but with only one team between the Buffs and that mark.
Clark was the only CU player to improve on his first round score, although Dylan McDermott (71 on Friday, 72 Saturday) and Justin Biwer (73 Friday, 74 Saturday) were steady.
NCAA men’s golf championships
Grayhawk Golf Club, Scottsdale, Ariz. (Par 70).
CU Buffs results (Through round 2)
T-36. Dylan McDermott 71-72 — 143
T-67. Hunter Swanson 72-74 — 146
T-84. Tucker Clark 80-67 — 147
T-84. Justin Biwer 73-74 — 147
T-147. Jack Holland 76-79 — 155