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Defending champ awaits new driver

CHASKA, Minn. -- James McLean, the defending NCAA men's golf champion, is dealing with some tough luck as well as a difficult course this week.

McLean, the University of Minnesota sophomore known for his long tee shots, was promised that he'd have a new driver Wednesday after a friend accidentally broke his precious club at Hazeltine National Golf Course, site of this week's 72-hole NCAA men's championship tournament."The driver's nonexistent at the moment," McLean said after finishing a practice round Tuesday at what is effectively his home course.

But any home course advantage he might have enjoyed was smashed when his driver snapped in two.

Following Monday's practice round, McLean headed to the driving range, where fellow Australian Adam Scott, a freshman from UNLV, asked if he could borrow his driver to hit a few shots.

"He bent down to pick up a tee and snapped it accidentally," McLean said. "I didn't know what to think. Panic sunk in. He went into shock. He was really speechless."

The club manufacturer was on hand and went scrambling with McLean's specifications to get a replacement in time for Wednesday's first round of the four-day tournament.

"Hopefully, it shouldn't take too long to get used to it," said McLean, who is trying to become the first player since Phil Mickelson (1989-90) to win consecutive NCAA titles.

Paul Casey of Arizona State said McLean is the favorite regardless.

"I think the course sets up for him very well; it's a long course and he hits a long ball," Casey said. "I don't know what he's going to be driving."

McLean and Georgia Tech's Matt Kuchar, who won the U.S. amateur championship two years ago and sparkled in the Masters and U.S. Open, lead a remarkably balanced field in which any one of 40 or more golfers stand a decent chance to win the individual title.

The field is so tough that top-ranked Joel Kribel of Stanford and SMU's Hank Kuehne, defending U.S. amateur champion, failed to qualify.

McLean, Kuchar and the rest of the NCAA field, including defending team champion UNLV, will take on a 7,196-yard, par-72 layout featuring big greens, U.S. Open-like rough and a reputation for turning into a monster if the winds whip up.