SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Maybe it took the opening round to shake off the nerves, but the first-year championship-scorers for ASU stepped up on day two of the NCAA Championships. No. 4 ASU improved 12 spots to T-9 after a team 1-over 281 in round two.
The Sun Devils improved 10 strokes from round one (291-281/572) and are 12-over heading into the third round, tied with No. 15 Alabama.
The important nugget of each of the last two years, a team has moved from outside the top-15 and improved by 10-plus strokes during round two. ASU has done just that.
Freshman Luke Potter had a major bounce-back, improving eight strokes from 7-over after 18 to 1-under after 36. His four-birdie day tied Josele Ballester for most by a Sun Devil on day two and is now tied for 68th.
Teeing off from the 10th hole, Potter punched a clean back-nine, sinking three birdies, including back-to-back on holes 15 and 16 (playing as six and seven). He was able to collect another birdie on the second hole before a hiccup on the par-3 fifth, resulting in a double-bogey followed a bogey on the par-4 seventh. He is now 6-over through 36.
ASU coach Matt Thurmond said he was proud of his boys, specifically Potter and Mjaaseth for their response following a hard round one. He added that the course played tough on opening day, but it didn’t leave his players shellshocked and they were able to regroup.
Both Potter and Ryggs Johnston shot under-par during the second round of match play.
Johnston carded a 1-under 69, improving six strokes from round one’s 5-over performance, leaving him 4-over through 36. He carded a quiet back-nine, finding a birdie on the par-3 16th and a bogey on the par-4 18th.
On the front-nine, Johnston collected another bogey before closing his round with back-to-back birdies. He is tied for 42nd.
If there is one thing ASU can count on, it’s Preston Summerhays’ consistency. He has been crucial for Arizona State, carding a 1-over 71, tied for 24. Through the back-nine, Summerhays carded only a bogey. On the front-nine, he came away even, entering round three 2-over.
It was the tale of two halves for Josele Ballester on Saturday. On the back-nine, Ballester amassed four birdies and a bogey. His four birdies through nine matched the teams most during round two. However, the second nine countered his fabulous first nine. He carded five bogeys to his four pars, dropping his round total to 2-over 72 (T-19).
Michael Mjaaseth, although also carding a 2-over 72 (T-95), lowered his stroke total by four between rounds. He remains 8-over through 36, however.
Every Sun Devil made par on the par-4 10th (first hole of round two).
No. 5 Texas Tech took the second-hardest slid behind No. 28 Arkansas, falling 12 spots to T-16 after a 15-over 295 second round. The Red Raiders took the biggest slide after 36, and out of the top-15.
“I think at the end of the day you’re going to see that our score this round was really good,” Thurmond said.
Really good indeed, as the Devils made the largest improvement of any team on the field — scraping by into the top-10 with only the top-15 moving on after 54.
Rival Stanford moved up four spots to T-13 after 36, carding a 6-over 286.
As the NCAA Championships move to round three, It will take a collective effort for the Devil’s to continue their positive trend. No. 3 Illinois leads the field at 2-under — 7-under during round two, so the hometown boys will begin to chip away Sunday morning.