The Loop

Minimizing mistakes key for early leaders at NCAAs


PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIF.--Corey Conners is your typical Kent State golfer.



Oh, and under the radar.

The sophomore from Listowel, Ontario, Canada (right) has quietly had an impressive season, posting a 71.8 stroke average (almost four shots better than in 2010-11) and winning the Mid-American Conference individual title earlier this month. In seven spring starts, he has yet to finish outside the top 25, posting six top-15 finishes.

So it is that the three-under 68 Conners posted during the first round of the 115th NCAA Championship Tuesday at Riviera CC shouldn't be all that surprising. While making birdies on the first, ninth and 13th holes, it was the fact that he didn't bogey any of the other 15th that was key to his round.

"I didn't do anything special," Conners said. "I just minimized my mistakes. That's key out here."

Indeed, Conners said the turning point of his round actually came at the par-3 14th hole. Coming off a birdie on 13, he missed the green but chipped to eight feet and made the par putt to maintain his momentum.

The 68 held up as the low round of the morning wave, matched by Florida's Tyler McCumber. The junior from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., also played bogey free to get to the top of the leader board.

"I thought I was very good mentally today," said McCumber, son of long-time PGA Tour pro Mark McCumber, who walked around Riviera during the round. "It wasn't a particularly great physical day, hitting it or putting it. I just didn't make any mistakes and just grounded it out all day."

Suffice it to say, this is likely going to be a common refrain from the players who have success in the afternoon wave as well. Par is going to be a golfer's friend this week at Riviera.

Just four other players from the morning wave--Oklahoma's Will Kropp, Illinois'Thomas Pieters and Iowa's Joseph Winslow at two-under 69 and Oklahoma's Abraham Ancer with a 70--managed to break par despite calm conditions greeting golfers for at least the first few hours of play.

McCumber helped the Gators post the low team score of the morning, a four-over 288, with Oklahoma one back and Florida State and Iowa two strokes behind.