Expect a shootout for individual title, Elite Eight spots
__TOLEDO--San Diego's__Alex Ching said it felt like he was starting a brand new round when he resumed his second round at 6:45 a.m. Thursday morning at the 112th NCAA Championship. In fact, the freshman was really just hoping to pick up where he left off Wednesday night, having hit every green on the 11 holes he had completed and making three birdies and an eagle to get to six under par for the tournament.
Unfortunately for him, the momentum the 19-year-old from Honolulu built in the gloaming failed to return come dawn, as the freshman bogeyed three of his first four holes up on his return to Inverness Club. Still, a birdie on the 18th gave Ching a four-under 67 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Georgia's Russell Henley and N.C. State's Matt Hill at four-under 138.
"I have to go work on some things on the range," Ching after Thursday morning. "One thing I had going for me [yesterday], I was in a groove. My swing hasn't felt that great the past week, but I was getting it around [Wednesday]. When I got to my first tee shot on 12 [this morning], I was nervous."
As the second round finally came to an end Thursday morning, almost 27 hours after it began thanks to a 4 1/2 hour weather delay, any number of players are in position to win the individual title with 18 holes left to play. One stroke back of Ching, Henley and Hill is Texas A&M All-American candidate Bronson Burgoon. Five players--Washington's__Nick Taylor__, TCU's__Tom Hoge__, Arizona State's__Scott Pinckney__, Duke's__Michael Quagliano__ and Michigan's Lion Kim--sit two strokes off the pace.
Just as the race for medalist honors looks as if it will be a shootout--a total of 15 players are within four shots of the leaders--the chase for the eight spots in the match-play portion of the team competition looks to be equally compelling. Seven schools are within four strokes of the 14-over mark that Duke is at as the Blue Devils hold down eighth place.
Atop the team leader board sits Oklahoma State at even-par 568, with Georgia trailing by five strokes and Texas A&M by six.
While there's still 18 holes to play before the eight teams advancing to match play are decided, a few of the schools inside the cut line after two rounds would qualify as surprises.
Most notable is Michigan, which is in seventh place after finishing up its second round Thursday morning with a one-over 285. The Wolverines won their first two tournaments in 2008-09 but had just two other top-three finishes in their next nine starts.
"If there's an advantage, we've been on the golf course already," said Michigan coach Andrew Sapp. "We'll be used to the conditions of the course."
The same could be said for eighth-place Duke, which also completed a one-over 285 round Thursday morning. The Blue Devils, who went through a coaching change during the winter break, bringing in __Jamie Green__after O.D. Vincent left to take a job at Washington, had to rally toward the end of the spring to post a winning head-to-head record and be eligible for the postseason under the ".500 rule."