There are always demons to be exorcised in golf, and the University of Alabama men’s golf team is no exception.
When it tees off at the NCAA Championships on Friday afternoon, the Crimson Tide will be playing at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla., a par-72, 7,460-yard course that Alabama coach Jay Seawell knows well.
It played host to the 2011 tournament when Alabama missed the cut, and it was the venue this past week when the Crimson Tide women’s team came oh-so-close to winning its second national title.
A little redemption may be in order.
“Everybody on the team is playing really well,” freshman Wilson Furr said earlier this week. “It’s really cool to see everyone’s sort of rounding into form. We’ve played a lot the last couple of days and it’s the best I’ve seen the team play as a whole.”
The Crimson Tide goes in seeded fifth behind top-ranked Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, reigning champion Oklahoma and Vanderbilt. Alabama and Vanderbilt are paired for the first two rounds.
The format is the same as the women’s tournament: Three rounds of stroke play for the 30-team field with a cut to 15 teams after 54 holes. After the fourth round, when the individual honors are determined, the field is narrowed to the eight teams in the quarterfinal brackets for match play.
The Crimson Tide men flew out a day early to root on the women’s team in the championship match, a 3-2 loss to Arizona that was settled on a playoff hole, and get an early look at the course.
— Alabama Men's Golf (@AlabamaMGolf) May 25, 2018
“It’s a hard golf course,” said senior Jonathan Hardee, who has played it before. “It’s very challenging off the tee and the green complexes can be really difficult. It’s a different type of grass than what we see here in the southeastern part of the United States.
“The ball comes out differently and reacts differently.”
That’s something Alabama had to deal with on top of the high winds during the Pacific Regional in Stockton, Calif. The Crimson Tide placed fourth, with the top five teams advancing, but adjusted well.
Had they done a little better on the par-5 holes Alabama might have had a finish comparable to the SEC Tournament.
“We played well enough to win,” said Seawell, who will go with the same lineup: senior Lee Hodges and junior Davis Riley, both All-SEC selections; Hardee; Furr; and freshmen Davis Shore.
The SEC title was determined using the same format and Alabama made it to the match-play final. The outcome came down to a putt sunk at the end.
“It’s going to be pretty fast,” Hardee said. “Everything’s going to come out quick, and the rough is going to be really difficult.”