As Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera’s nail-biting playoff was coming to a close at Augusta National on Sunday afternoon, the USC men’s and women’s golf teams were looking to pick up important victories of their own.
Unfortunately for the men’s squad, which was seeking its first win since late February, a victory was not in the cards. The women’s team suffered a similar fate, as it finished outside the top-five after three consecutive first place finishes.
The men’s team once again finished outside the top five at the Western Intercollegiate at Pasatiempo Golf Course in Santa Cruz, Calif., ending up in sixth.
Senior Sam Smith continued his consistent play, once again coming in as the team’s lowest scorer. He finished in a tie for No. 12, however, and this was not enough to push USC into contention.
Top-ranked California ran away with the tournament, just as they did at the last meeting between the two squads at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Pedro Figueiredo of No. 5 UCLA won this weekend’s individual title, leading his team to a second-place finish. No. 9 Stanford, No. 4 Washington and unranked San Diego State rounded out the top five.
Smith got off to a hot start during Saturday’s two rounds of action with seven birdies through the first 36 holes, putting him and the Trojans in contention heading into Sunday. Unfortunately, an outstanding performance from Cal, coupled with less-than-stellar play from USC, sunk the Trojans’ hopes.
Smith finished 2-over for the tournament, with his excellent first day offset by a final round 5-over 75. Freshman Yi Keun Chang sent in the next best score, tying for 29th with an 8-over finish.
USC head coach Chris Zambri recognized that his squad did not play its best golf.
“The team struggled this week, especially on and around the greens,” Zambri said. “But we have a clear idea of what we need to improve on.”
For the Women of Troy, the weekend also had its share of struggles. The No. 1 USC women’s golf team headed to the PING/Arizona State Invitational last weekend looking to win its fourth straight event, a feat only accomplished in USC history by the 2008 squad, which won the national championship. The team’s hopes were dashed, though, as USC fell victim to an incredible final round performance from defending NCAA champion No. 2 Alabama.
The Crimson Tide erased a four-shot deficit in the final round to overtake No. 3 Duke and claim a commanding nine-stroke victory. The Women of Troy remained in the hunt through Friday and Saturday’s rounds and headed into Sunday just eight strokes back of the Blue Devils. It was the defending champs, however, that delivered a blistering 11-under round to win the title.
USC juniors Rachel Morris and Sophia Popov tied for 10th individually at 3-under to lead the Women of Troy, six strokes behind Alabama’s Emma Talley for the individual crown. Popov was coming off of a victory at the SDSU Farms Invitational and still managed to make some history in this tournament. Her final round score of 69 was her third round in the 60s this year and the 15th of her career, tying USC’s career record held by Jennifer Song in 2008-09. Popov’s finish was her fourth consecutive in the top 10, while Morris’ tie for 10th was her second in a row. Freshman Annie Park tied for 27th at 2-over and sophomore Doris Chen tied for 38th at 4-over.
Both squads return to action at the end of the month for the Pac-12 playoffs. On the men’s side, the tournament will be hosted April 29 through May 1 at the Los Angeles Country Club. For the women’s team, the action will start April 22 at the Valencia Country Club. Despite the players’ recent struggles, Zambri is excited about their postseason chances.
“Like March Madness, our year comes down to how we play at the end of the season,” Zambri said. “With that, we have reason to be optimistic. This is a great opportunity.”