Final Exam

An updated format has added some excitement to the men’s Division I college golf championship, which will be played this year at Riviera Country Club

Iconic Riviera Country Club, site of the Northern Trust Open, will host the nation’s top college players and teams beginning May 28. (Joann Dost)

The NCAA golf championship isn’t in the same league as March Madness or as maddening as the Bowl Championship Series, but it’s a format that creates excitement to the final putt. Since instituting match play for the 2009 event, won by Texas A&M, the Division I golf championship has produced some drama on the fairways.
USC is the host school of this year’s event, set for May 29-June 3 at Riviera Country Club. The following guide provides a comprehensive look at the tournament:
As the site of the Northern Trust Open, Riviera is no stranger to elite golf. The 7,238-yard, par-71 course will have little or no change from the PGA Tour setup or membership layout, said Riviera director of golf Todd Yoshitake. Good viewing spots include the elevated tee box on the first hole and from the amphitheater seating around the 18th green.
“It doesn’t change from a normal setup other than the greens will get a little firmer,” Yoshitake said. “The setup will be for scoring, and since it will be primarily a match-play event we want people making birdies to win holes.”
Texas freshman Jordan Spieth and UCLA sophomore Patrick Cantlay received sponsor’s exemptions to play in February’s Northern Trust Open. Both missed the cut with two-round totals of 5 over and 9 over, respectively, but they’ll likely improve on those efforts when competing against their peers.
Texas will enter the championship with the top two ranked individual players in Speith and Dylan Frittelli. Both have medalist honors this season and possess the ability to lead the Longhorns to their first championship since back-to-back titles in 1971-72.
The UCLA Bruins were the last West Coast team to win the NCAA Championship in 2008. (UCLA Sports Information)

Texas coach John Fields, now in his 15th year, knows he has a special group and is happy to enter the tournament as the top-ranked team.
“That means we’ve played a very strong schedule throughout the year; that we’ve been successful throughout the year; and most likely that we’ve won golf tournaments,” Fields said. “The No. 1 thing, though, is to remember that the NCAA Championship is still a golf tournament and you’re in it to win it, regardless of the rankings.”
The top West Coast squad is USC, which is ranked No. 3. Cal, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA, which was the last West Coast team to capture the title in 2008, also are in the Top 10 and have a good chance to compete for the title. Sleepers include San Diego State, which won four consecutive tournaments this spring, and Washington. Augusta State is the two-time defending champion.
The new format means that the individual title is awarded after 54 holes before the 30-team field is reduced to eight for match play. Not everyone is happy with the revision.
Led by coach John Fields (left), Jordan Spieth and the University of Texas are among the favorites. (UT Athletics)

“Fifty-four holes diminishes the chance that the best player is going to identify himself,” Fields said. “Less than 72 holes doesn’t insure that players have had the same opportunities – a morning start, an afternoon start, a likely morning start for the third day and then most likely another morning start in a 72-hole format.”
But with Frittelli and Spieth on his team, Fields knows a player from Texas has a good chance to win the title, regardless of the format.
“If you’re asking me if a change from 72 holes to 54 holes diminishes the individual medalist, my answer is yes. Does that mean it’s not desirable? No. We want to have an individual champion.”
West Coast players to watch include Cantlay, the low amateur at this year’s Masters, and Stanford’s Patrick Rodgers, who has maintained a top-5 ranking throughout the season. Chris Williams and Cheng-Tsung Pan of Washington and Oregon’s Eugene Wong also have legitimate shots, with San Diego State’s J.J. Spaun, USC’s Steve Lim and Jeffrey Kang and Cal’s Max Homa being good sleeper picks.
A new wrinkle has been added to allow more coaching decisions for the eight-team match-play portion of the event. This year’s lineups will be determined using the same method employed at the President’s Cup as opposed to rankings. The higher-seeded team (as determined through 54 holes of stroke play) will have the first choice of putting a player on the board for the first match. The opposing team will then name an opponent for that match, followed by a player for match No. 2. The process will continue on an alternating “S” curve until the players for all five matches are named.
Monday, May 28: Practice round.
Tuesday, May 29-Thursday, May 31: 7 a.m. start each day.
Friday, June 1: 10 a.m. start for eight-team match play.
Saturday, June 2: 10 a.m. start for four-team match play.
Sunday, June 3: 10 a.m. start for final match.
Tickets: $10 daily; $30 all-session pass; 12 and under admitted free with paid adult.
Parking: $20 valet at Capri entrance; $10 at Paul Revere Junior High School with free shuttle service to course.
Information updates:;;

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