SUGAR GROVE, Ill. (AP) — One big swing gave Mississippi sophomore Braden Thornberry control, and he never let go until he was the NCAA men’s golf champion.
Thornberry capped off a big year Monday when he closed with a 1-under 71 on a brutal day of scoring at Rich Harvest Farms to capture the NCAA individual title with a four-shot victory over Mason Overstreet of Arkansas. It was the first golf title for the Rebels.
Vanderbilt romped its way to the No. 1 seed for the match play portion of the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship, which starts Tuesday. The Commodores finished 12 shots ahead of Oklahoma, while defending champion Oregon made a late push behind Ryan Gronlund to secure its spot in the eight-team field.
The other five teams advancing were Illinois, Oklahoma State, Southern California, Baylor and UNLV.
Thornberry started the final round two shots behind Scottie Scheffler of Texas, who immediately gave up the lead. After a bogey on his opening hole at No. 10, Scheffler hit a provisional tee shot for a lost ball on the par-5 11th. He never found his original tee shot and went on to make triple bogey.
Thornberry was even par for the day when he ripped driver on the reachable par-4 sixth hole, the ball bouncing softly out of the rough to about 18 feet. He made the eagle putt to seize control and no one seriously challenged him the rest of the way.
“In the practice round I hit the same shot and it was a little into the wind, so I knew driver was going to be perfect,” Thornberry said. “I just stepped up there and happened to hit a big one.”
Mississippi missed the cut as a team.
Scheffler still had a chance late in his round until he missed a birdie opportunity on the par-5 seventh, took par on No. 8 and then twice hit trees on the final hole for a double bogey to close with a 78.
His late mistake wasn’t nearly as costly as it was for Matthias Schwab of Vanderbilt, Overstreet and Rico Hoey of Southern California.
Schwab was within two shots with four holes to play when he hit his tee shot and his approach into the water on the 15th and took triple bogey. He closed with a 75 and tied for third with Scheffler and Theo Humphrey of Vanderbilt (70).
Overstreet was three shots back until bogeys on the 16th and 17th took him out of it. Hoey was on the fringe of contention until he made two double bogeys over his last six holes and shot 76 to finish seven back.