SCOTTSDALE — Junior Cole Ponich fired a 1-under par 69 to lead BYU in its “substitute” Sunday final round on Thursday at the NCAA championship golf tournament at Grayhawk Golf Club.

As a team, the Cougars shot 10-over par on the par-70, 7,289 course. The rest of the NCAA championship field, including Utah, tees off with BYU in the first round on Friday.

BYU qualified for the NCAAs by finishing third at the regional in Stockton, California with a team score of 27-under par. ASU won that regional at 38-under. Having to post a double digit over-par score for the Cougars final round Sunday may prove rough.

Ponich birdied both of the only par-5s on the course and also carded a birdie on the par-4 No. 15. He had back-to-back bogeys on the second and third holes then played the rest of the way 3-under, the best of any Cougar and only player under par.

BYU’s top player senior Carson Lundell (Lone Peak) shot 5-over 75 and the No. 2 guy David Timmons was 3-over.

Head coach Bruce Brockbank said the uniqueness of playing the final round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, a day before all other teams take to the course is a unique challenge and his team just had to embrace it.

The Cougars played in the NCAA Tournament in Stillwater, Oklahoma in 2018, in Fayetteville, Arkansas in 2019, and then sat out during the Covid stoppage of 2020. In 2021 the Cougars didn’t even make it to the NCAA regional.

“So this is special. We’ve talked about it. We are out here by ourselves and the other 29 teams are wondering what in the heck we are doing out here.  We give them bit and pieces of how it is going to be out here,” Brockbank said in an interview with Fairways Media publisher Randy Dodson on the No. 7 hole during Thursday’s round.

Senior Carson Lundell is the only Cougar to have played this format made specifically for BYU by the NCAA championship committee — playing Sunday’s final round on Thursday — due to the university’s no Sunday play rule.

“Hopefully we are mature enough to handle it. If you make a bad swing you have to go with it and when you make a good swing, take advantage of it.  It’s like being in your own little world and you find yourself in it, kind of like the game of golf is.  When it comes your turn to to make a shot, you have to do it without watching anyone else play.”

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David Timmons was 1-over after nine holes and Cole Ponich was even. All other Cougar players were plus-2 at the turn.  At that stage of play, the Cougars had nine birdies and the No 1 player Lundell had a disastrous triple bogey on the par-4 No. 3 hole to go with a pair of front-9 birdies.

The field of 30 teams play the first round of stroke play on Friday and the second round on Saturday. Matchplay begins Tuesday after Monday’s final round. BYU’s tem score Thursday will be injected into the tournament scores on Sunday.

NCAA finals are 72 holes of stroke play Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and two days of match play Tuesday and Wednesday.

Correction: The original version of this story stated BYU’s round Thursday would be inserted as its final round Sunday. Actually, Thursday’s round takes the place of Sunday’s third round, with the final round being played Monday.

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