Oregon’s Aaron Wise shoots 64 in round three, moves to first on individual leaderboard
Aaron Wise had hovered around par throughout the first two days of NCAA Championships, flashing moments of brilliance, only to come back down to earth with missed opportunities that often resulted in bogeys.
“I felt like I was getting things going and then I’d make a silly mistake and throw it right back,” Wise said.
Sunday morning, however, in the third round of stroke play at Eugene Country Club, Wise kept his momentum going with a six-under 64 score and moved into first place among the 156-player field.
Wise’s finest moment came on the back nine, when he dropped four consecutive birdies on holes 13 through 16. He nearly had an ace on the 205-yard, par-three 16th hole, but the ball caught the edge of the hole and rolled out.
— Lance Ringler (@GolfweekRingler) May 29, 2016
“Through the middle part of that back nine I had a lot of momentum,” Wise said. “The crowd was with me, and it was awesome.”
A noticeably large gallery of spectators followed Wise throughout the round.
“You definitely notice it,” Wise said. “It was 20 to 30 people maybe on the front nine, then it became 100 people coming down the stretch.”
For the rest of the Oregon men’s golf team, Wise’s performance couldn’t have come at a better time. Although Thomas Lim and Zach Foushee shot even and one-over, respectively, the Ducks shot four-over as a team.
“[Aaron] covered for us a little bit,” head coach Casey Martin said. “We had a couple guys really struggle, so I was grateful he turned it on when he did.”
Edwin Yi shot 10-over in the third round, taking a step back from his strong play through the previous two days.
After carding a one-under in the second round, Raza also dropped off, shooting a nine-over in his round that included eight bogeys and one double bogey.
But overall, the Ducks (+12) remained in the top five of 30 teams when their round concluded just before 1 p.m. Oregon is seven strokes behind first place Vanderbilt (+5).
“We’re where we need to be,” Martin said. “We could’ve been even better obviously, but it is what it is. I think we’ll be ready and the guys who struggled today will be ready to come back tomorrow and show that it was a random occurrence.”
Both Wise and Martin noted how the course has gotten tougher, particularly the firmer greens and deeper rough that head groundskeeper Chris Gaughan has left untouched since the tournament began. The course has challenged practically everyone, and several top teams — Stanford (27th), Wake Forest (tied for 22nd) and Florida (tied for 20th) — are in danger of missing the cut when the field is narrowed from 30 to 15 teams at the end of play Sunday.
On Monday, an individual national champion will be crowned, and the field will also be cut from 15 to eight teams. Match play, where the final eight teams square off in a head-to-head bracket format, will go from Tuesday to Wednesday.
Pairings and tee times for Monday will be announced later in the day.
Follow Will Denner on Twitter @Will_Denner
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