MILTON, Ga. (UI Release) - Illinois received solid play from all five of its golfers and stands fourth after the first of three rounds of stroke play Tuesday at the NCAA Championships at the par-70, 7,320-yard Crabapple Course at The Capital City Club. The Illini fired a 4-under-par 276, Illinois' lowest score at the NCAA Championships since at least 1999, and is six shots behind leader Arizona State.
The Illini played in the afternoon wave, where host Georgia Tech's 6-under-par was a session best and left the Yellow Jackets tied for second overall, while ASU played in the morning. Illinois also is five shots ahead of ninth place, which is important because the top eight teams after 54 holes of stroke play advance to the match-play championship bracket. The Illini will tee off in the second round Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. CT.
Junior defending NCAA champion Thomas Pieters and sophomore Brian Campbell are tied for eighth after each carding 2-under-par 68s on the day, while freshmen Thomas Detry and Charlie Danielson both fired even-par 70s to stand tied for 33rd. Sophomore Alex Burge recorded a 2-over-par 72, which tied for the day's lowest non-counting score among all 30 teams. Arizona State's Jon Rahm broke the course record with a 9-under 61 during the morning wave, besting the previous record by four shots. He holds a four-stroke lead over Oklahoma's Abraham Ancer.
"We've talked all spring about playing solid golf and taking responsibility for your game, and they did that today," Illinois head coach Mike Small said. "The course wasn't easy. It wasn't as penal of a course as some we've played this spring, but it's a hard, solid golf course. To have guys step up and take care of business today is a big deal. A couple guys were 2-over early and they both fought back. I'm proud of everybody."
Starting on the back nine, the Illini got off to a mixed start with birdies by Danielson and Detry on No. 10, but bogeys from Campbell and Burge on that hole. Burge also bogeyed 11 and Campbell bogeyed No. 12 to leave Illinois even after three holes. But Campbell quickly rebounded, notching birdies on the par-3 13th and par-4 14th, while Danielson's bogey on 14 knocked him back to par on the round.
Pieters notched his first birdie of the day on the par-3 15th, but Campbell and Detry both bogeyed that hole. Detry also bogeyed No. 16, while Burge and Danielson bogeyed the 16th. All five players recorded pars on the final two holes to make the turn at even par - Pieters and Danielson at -1, and Burge, Campbell and Detry at +1.
The team started to heat up on the course's front nine, thought, as Campbell and Pieters both notched birdies on the par-4 1st hole as Danielson bogeyed it. Danielson fell to +1 after a bogey on the par-3 3rd hole, but he got it back on the par-4 5th. Meanwhile, Campbell and Pieters both birdied the par-5 4th hole, but Burge recorded a bogey there. Campbell and Detry both added birdies on the 5th to mark the Illini's best hole of the day, as they combined to shoot -3 on the 5th hole.
Burge birdied No. 6, but Pieters dropped a stroke there. Burge posted a five on the par-4 7th hole and the team parred out from there, cruising into the clubhouse in fourth place.