Tuesday marked the penultimate day of the 2017 NCAA men’s golf championship, with Oklahoma and Oregon earning spots in Wednesday’s team championship match.
The day started with eight schools competing in head-to-head match play. Vanderbilt, Oklahoma, Illinois, Baylor, USC, UNLV, Oklahoma State and Oregon challenging for the right to be called the best in the country.
No. 1 Vanderbilt def. No. 8 UNLV
No. 2 Oklahoma def. No. 7 Baylor
No. 3 Illinois def. No. 6 USC
No. 5 Oregon def. No. 4 Oklahoma State
No. 2 Oklahoma def. No. 3 Illinois, 3-1-1
No. 5 Oregon def. No. 1 Vanderbilt, 3-2
Despite being the defending champions, Oregon has managed to exceed expectations throughout this tournament run. The Ducks were supposed to take a step back due in part to having freshmen Norman Xiong and Kevin Geniza learning on the job this year.
Tuesday looked like it would be the end of the line for Oregon after falling behind 2-0 against Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals after Wyndham Clark and Xiong were defeated. After Edwin Yi and Ryan Gronlund kept the Ducks alive with victories, Sulman Raza got to play the role of hero again.
After hitting the birdie putt on a playoff hole last year to seal Oregon’s national title, Raza hit an eight-foot birdie on the eighth hole this year to defeat Hayden Wood 2-and-1.
Comebacks were the order of the day, at least in the quarterfinals, as Oklahoma also had to make a furious rally against Baylor to keep its season alive, per Golf Channel:
Things would not be nearly as dramatic for the Sooners against the hometown Illinois team. They picked apart the Illini with Blaine Hale leading the charge by defeating Edoardo Lipparelli 4-and-3, via Oklahoma’s official Twitter account:
Max McGreevy and Rylee Reinertson would each win their respective matches to clinch the win for Oklahoma and the school’s first appearance in a final since 2009, per Justin Ray of the Golf Channel:
Vanderbilt and Oregon provided the real drama of the semifinals. Oregon appeared to be in control most of the way, leading three of the five matches and tied in another before the Commodores would start to fight back.
It was still an uphill climb for Vanderbilt, but Yi did leave the door open with a missed birdie putt on 16 that gave John Augenstein life when he did hit his birdie to square up the match.
On the 17th hole, Augenstein was facing a long par putt that he had to make to keep the Commodores going, via the Golf Channel:
Yi and Augenstein would finish all square, leaving Oregon up 2-1-1 with Raza up one against Matthias Schwab heading onto No. 18 with a chance to send the Ducks back to the finals.
Schwab did everything in his power to pull a miracle out of his golf bag, via the Golf Channel:
Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, it just ran out of time to complete the comeback. Raza put himself on the green and had two putts to send Oregon to the finals. The Pac-12 Network captured what the Ducks’ team reaction likely was after seeing Raza seal the deal with this GIF:
The Ducks have managed to enter the finals as an underdog despite being the defending NCAA champions. They got hot at exactly the right time, overcame pressure on the biggest stage and defeated the best team left standing to compete for a second consecutive title.
Oklahoma and Oregon have taken their own unique paths throughout the tournament to have this moment on the biggest stage in college golf.
After the respective performances of both teams on Tuesday, Oklahoma and Oregon will have all the confidence in the world as they seek the right to bring a championship back home.
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