PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif.----The fourth-ranked Auburn men’s golf team was tied for second with No. 19 Florida after shooting a 4-over 288 in the first round of the NCAA Championship at historic Riviera Country Club on Tuesday. All-American Blayne Barber and All-SEC Dominic Bozzelli each fired 2-under 69s to lead the Tigers as both are tied for fourth individually.
Auburn's Dominic Bozzelli as 2-under after the first round/Todd Van Emst photos
The top eight teams after three rounds advance to match play while the individual NCAA Champion is also be determined after 54 holes.
No. 2 Alabama led after a 1-over 285, three shots ahead of the Tigers and Gators. No. 5 UCLA and No. 28 Oklahoma were tied for fourth at 289 while there was a five-way tie for sixth at 290 with No. 1 Texas, No. 11 North Florida, No. 19 Florida State, No. 20 UCF and No. 25 Iowa after a jumbled first round.
“We played well in spurts,” said Auburn coach Nick Clinard. “We got off to a decent start and through 10-11 holes, we were playing very well and there are some tough holes from 12-15, and we hit some pretty poor shots off the tee and let a few go. We had a few guys finish strong, and Niclas’ bogeys on 17 and 18 hurt us.”
Barber played a solid bogey-free round with birdies at par-5s No. 1 and No. 17. His 20-foot eagle putt through the fringe on 17th was just short.
“It was a great round and was very solid,” said Barber. “I played well. I didn’t get into too much trouble. I made a few par putts on the front to keep the round going, and I was able to stay bogey-free and birdied two par 5s.
“Moving forward, it is important to start well as a team. We are in a great spot moving forward, and we get to go out on fresh greens in the morning and go at it again.”
Bozzelli carded four birdies and a pair of bogeys as he opened with a birdie, bogey and birdie on the first three holes. The Pittsford, N.Y., native, who recorded his third consecutive under par round and fourth in the last five, had back-to-back birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 followed by a bogey at No. 12.
“I didn’t have my best stuff hitting the ball, but I got off to a decent start with a birdie on No. 1. Whenever I missed the greens, I had a lot of nice up and downs. Par is a pretty good score here. You just have to be patient because if you are not and you get too aggressive at some pins, you can make bogey in a hurry.
“It’s important to get off to a good start as a team. We just need to go down to the range and work on some things that we have all been working on and hopefully come out and play well again tomorrow.”
All-SEC Will McCurdy had a 74 with four birdies and is tied for 64th while All-SEC Niclas Carlsson had a 76 and is tied for 105th after bogeying four of his last seven holes. Freshman All-SEC Michael Johnson had an 81 and is tied for 151st.
No. 23 Georgia is tied for 16th at 295 with No. 3 California and East Carolina while No. 8 Washington is in 20th at 296. Chattanooga is tied for 20th at press time with three holes to play while UAB (297) is 22nd and host and No. 6 Southern California and No. 15 Texas A&M are for 23rd at 298 ahead of TCU (299), Memphis (299), Virginia Tech (299), Lamar (299) and Tulsa (306). No. 16 Virginia is in 29th at 16-over with three holes to play.
Auburn has a quick turnaround as the Tigers finished their opening round at 6:30 pm Pacific and tees off in Wednesday’s second round off the No. 10 tee beginning at 7:20 am Pacific (9:20 am CT) with UCLA and Southern California.
“That’s a good thing,” said Clinard of the Tigers returning to the course in less than 12 hours. “I told the guys before we got here that if you finish the first round playing well, then you get right back out with good vibes. Plus, the greens should be better. We are putting on poana and late in the day on the last few holes, they get very bumpy. They should be very good tomorrow. Hopefully, the wind dies down where we can go out and shoot 7 to 8 under.”
UCLA’s Anton Arboleda is the individual leader with a 4-under 67, one shot ahead of Kent State’s Corey Conners and Florida’s Tyler McCumber and two ahead of six golfers at 2-under, including Barber and Bozzelli. Live-scoring of the NCAA Championship can be followed at www.golfstat.com .