The Oklahoma State golf team shot two over par Friday, and stand alone in first place after the first round of stroke play in the NCAA tournament at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Perhaps the Cowboys were a bit nervous off the tee, shooting three over par on the front nine, which could have been worse without three birdies from Zach Bauchou. But they played much better on the back nine, shooting one under and keeping themselves in great shape heading into Saturday’s round.
The Cowboys’ best players, Hogan Award winner Viktor Hovland and Golfstat’s No. 1 Matthew Wolff, did not play their best but Austin Eckroat and Bauchou stepped up. OSU’s depth beyond their two nationally renowned players is the reason they came into the tournament ranked No. 1 in the country; and why they still have a shot to repeat as national champions.
Eckroat opened the day with a birdie on the par five 10th hole then bogeyed the par three 13, but never bogeyed again. He opened the back nine with three straight birdies to finish with a nice 3-under par 69 for a three-way tie of second place with Arizona State’s Chun An Yu, Stanford’s Isaiah Salinda and Utah’s Kyler Dunkle. California’s Colin Morikawa holds a two-shot lead over them.
Bauchou set the pace on the front nine. The senior opened with a bogey then birdied the 12th, 13th and 16th to shoot a 2-under 34. He flattened out on the back nine with four bogeys and a birdie to card a 1-over 73 in an eight-way tie for 21st.
Wolff played poorly the first nine holes. After a birdie on the 11th, he double-bogeyed the 12th then bogeyed the 13th, 16th and 18th to make the turn at four over. But he caught fire on the back nine and posted four birdies before bogeying the ninth to salvage a 73.
Hovland had one birdie and two bogeys on the first nine. He struggled to find a rhythm all day; two more bogeys on the second nine and no birdies to finish with a 3-over 75.
The Cowboys tee off at 6:50 a.m. Saturday and continue their quest to seal a spot for matchplay, which begins Tuesday and will be televised on the Golf Channel.