Although No. 4 Stanford men’s golf trailed after the first round of the Pac-12 Championships in Salt Lake City over the weekend, the Cardinal used a stellar second round to seize the lead and never again trailed en route to clinching their third consecutive conference title and the 10th in program history.
The Cardinal were the only team to shoot under par for the weekend (-18) and finished 29 strokes up on No. 13 Cal, who finished second. Rounding out the top five were No. 10 Arizona State, No. 24 Washington and No. 2 USC.
Stanford finished three golfers — David Boote (-7), Franklin Huang (-5) and Maverick McNealy (-3) — in the individual top 10, though McNealy was unable to defend his individual Pac-12 title from last year. This time around, he ceded the crown to Jon Rahm of Arizona State, who was the only player to shoot under par all four days and finished at a 12-under 272 to outpace Arizona’s Jordan Gumberg by four strokes.
Boote was in line to finish as the runner-up but faltered in unfavorable conditions in the final round, shooting a 73 for his only over-par round of the meet to fall into a tie for third. Jeffrey Swegle (E), Viraat Badhwar (+3) and Brandon Wu (+8) rounded out Stanford’s individuals at the four-round meet.
Cal got off to a fast start in the cold, windy first round on Friday with a 5-under 350 in the first round behind tremendous rounds from Sebastian Crampton (-4) and K.K. Limbhasut (-5), but Stanford was able to keep pace with a 352 thanks to a great showing from Huang, who birdied four on the back nine to finish 5-under for the round.
Stanford followed off its strong start with one of its best rounds of the season on Friday afternoon in calmer winds, when the Cardinal saw four of their golfers shoot under par, paced by a 7-under 64 from Swegle, who birdied five of the back nine and finished his round with three consecutive birdies on 16, 17 and 18. Boote also finished 5-under after pocketing an eagle on 18 to close his round, while Wu pulled in at 4-under and Badhwar at 3-under.
Thanks to the play-six, score-five format of each round, Stanford finished the second round with an eye-popping 19-under 336 — seven strokes better than Cal — to pull into the lead after the first day.
“This afternoon we got some momentum going,” said head coach Conrad Ray after Friday’s two rounds. “It’s fun to finish strong, but knowing there’s a lot of golf left and the forecast isn’t great, we have to show up tomorrow and take care of business.”
That’s exactly what the Cardinal were able to do in another cold, windy third round on Saturday, as Stanford clocked in with a 7-under 348 in unforgiving conditions as the only team to finish under par for the round to extend its lead over second-place Cal to 12 strokes.
“It’s a team effort for sure,” Ray said after the third round. “The setup was tough, the wind was blowing and it was kind of chilly. I was proud of our guys and we just ground it out. Cal and USC are great teams, so we know that we have a lot of golf left to play tomorrow.”
Huang continued his hot streak in the third round, leading the Cardinal with a 3-under 68 thanks to three birdies in his last five holes, and all five of Stanford’s scoring golfers for the round finished even or better. After the second day, the championship was clearly going to come down to a finish between Stanford and Cal, with the second-place Golden Bears 19 strokes up on third-place USC.
Though Stanford was unable to top the field again in the fourth round, the Cardinal did finish second for the round with a 11-over 366 behind just Arizona State’s 364. And really, the result of the championship wasn’t in doubt at the end, thanks to Cal plummeting with a brutal 383 (second-worst in the 12-team field) with ghastly performances on the back nine from five of its golfers, sealing the championship for the Cardinal.
McNealy wrapped up with a 1-over 72 to lead the Cardinal in the final round, while Boote, Huang and Swegle all tabbed 2-over 73s in challenging conditions to push the Cardinal to a strong finish.
Stanford will next be in action at the NCAA Regional Championships from May 16-18 at a location yet to be determined.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.