SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — You often hear winning is never easy. But, today in the women’s NCAA Championship match for Stanford, it was mostly easy. The question as the final match with Oregon made the turn was, ‘Would it be a sweep?’
Oregon did win just enough holes late in the match to catch Stanford’s attention, but what might have been the most interesting thing to come out of the final was Oregon’s Sofie Kibsgaard Nielsen rolling her push cart over her opponent Rose Zhang’s ball, resulting in a one-shot penalty which led Zhang to win on the 17th hole and close the match.
The end result was a comfortable 3-2 Stanford win.
This year, the second that the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship being played at Grayhawk Golf Club, marked the first time the No. 1 seed after stroke play has gone on to win the title. In 2017 Arizona State was the top-ranked team in college golf and won the championship, but they did so as the No. 3 seed.
— Stanford Women’s Golf (@StanfordWGolf) May 26, 2022
The thought of No. 1 vs. No. 2 turned out to be more exciting than the actual competition. And dare we say the final round of stroke play was more exciting than all of match play. It did not seem that way since the stroke-play portion is viewed as qualifying and all eyes are focused on the eighth spot and not on who wins after 72 holes.
However, during that final stroke-play round early on the back nine, Stanford was in third place behind Oregon and Texas A&M. Stanford, which was down as many as three strokes, would rally and eventually find the top spot, edging Oregon by three shots and Texas A&M by five.
Of course that is not always the case. Many times, stroke play is a yawner and produces No. 1 seeds that win by double digits.
This NCAA Championship golf format is unpredictable. Golf is unpredictable.
One thing we know for sure is that with this stroke play to match play championship, we want drama. We crave to see matches going to the final hole or extra holes to decide a winner.
Some years we get a Mariah Stackhouse (Stanford) extra-hole victory to win like in 2015 or a Ying Luo (Washington) hole out that propeled Washington to the 2016 title.
Some years we just get golf. Like this year with the two best teams in college – No. 1 vs. No. 2. That does not happen very often. Well, it had never happened to this point in women’s golf.
Because in this format, the underdogs win more often than not. This was not the year of the underdog.
From the time preseason rankings were released and then each week of the fall and spring season, Stanford was in the top spot. This week at Grayhawk, Stanford was No. 1 any way you measure it.
The best team does not always win the championship. This year, the best team won the championship.