WEST LAFAYETTE, IND.--Has Los Angeles become the center of the college golf universe?
It's hard not to begin thinking that way after seeing the USC women win the NCAA title last week and now watching the Trojan men grab a share of the lead after round 1 of the men's NCAA Championship. Adding more proof to the theory, consider who USC is tied with at nine-over 297:
For a while now there's been talk about how deep a team USC fields, but we saw it first-hand Wednesday when the team's drop score came from defending NCAA champion Jamie Lovemark, who shot a 79. Instead leading the way was freshman Tim Sluiter who shot a two-under 70, one of only three sub-par rounds from the 156-player field.
"This course is like a U.S. Open, where it really comes down to hitting some fairways," Southern California coach Chris Zambri said. "I think we drive it pretty well, but we also drive it pretty long, which is one of our strengths. The longer you hit it, if you hit it offline, the further offline it goes, so our strength becomes not necessarily a weakness, but with the rough so high, the premium is on hitting it in the middle of the fairway."
Sluiter's round was particularly impressive considering he was still in some pain after having surgery on his right big toe last week to remove part of a infected toe nail.
"I'm pretty confident in how I've been playing," said the Netherlands native sitting near the clubhouse with one shoe on and one shoe off. "I shot a 83 at regionals, but I didn't really care about that. I know I was playing pretty good. If I missed a fairway, I had good lies. I could get the ball on the green."
Sluiter, and Kent State senior David Markle, who shot a 70 in the morning wave, were done one better however by UCLA senior Kevin Chappell, who was at four under with one hole to play before three-putting and finishing with a three-under 69.
"I hit the ball in the fairway for the most part and that allowed me to play to my strength, which is my iron game," said Chappell who hit 10 of 14 fairways. "I felt like I could maybe wear the golf course down."
Three Bruins, Erik Flores,Phillip Francis and Craig Leslie, shot 76s with UCLA dropping__Lucas Lee__'s 79.
The two West Coast schools have a one-shot edge over Oklahoma State at Purdue's Kampen Course, thanks in part to the Cowboys giving up eight strokes to par on their final two holes from their four counting golfers.
OSU freshman__Rickie Fowler__ was three under on his round before making a quadruple bogey on the 17th hole and three-putting for bogey on No. 18 to close at 74. In front of him on the 18th, junior Trent Leon made a triple-bogey on the 18th to shoot a 73.
The Kampen Course proved to be an equal opportunity destroyer--the first-round scoring average was 78.9--taking down several of college golf's top players in the first 18 holes. In addition to Lovemark, SEC player of the year Michael Thompson of Alabama shot a 76 (Alabama, the top-ranked team in the final Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll, sits a disappointing T-12 after round 1, 12 back of the leaders) and Central Regional champion Kevin Tway of Oklahoma State an 81
Tway's round was particular interesting. After taking a quintuple-bogey 9 on the ninth hole he made an eagle 3 on the par-5 10th after getting on in two.
"It's a cruel game sometimes," said OSU coach Mike McGraw. "You just have to be able to handle everything [the game] throws at you. Luckily we play in the morning so we don't have a lot of time to stew on this."