Herendeen leads Illini on day two of NCAA championship

May 25—CARLSBAD, Calif. — All 30 teams at the NCAA championship were in the same boat when it came to knowing what to expect from Omni La Costa (North Course). As in very little.

An extensive renovation meant the first round any of the teams played after arriving for the NCAA championship was Thursday's practice round. Plenty was learned when the tournament began in earnest Friday, and that continued through Saturday's second round.

Few teams have tackled that challenge as well as Illinois. The Illini were six strokes better as a team in Saturday's second round and remain in contention atop the leaderboard.

"I told the guys every day they play the course they learn something about it," Illinois coach Mike Small said. "The majority of the hard holes are on the back nine. (Saturday) we got that out of the way early. (Sunday) we've got to finish with it. You've got to attack those hard holes with some purpose and respect.

"Big Tens was a learning experience. Regionals they played really sollid and the correct way, and here they're playing Illinois golf, too. We've got to keep that up. We've got to stay on point and stay purposeful to our mission."

Illinois freshman Max Herendeen shot even par on the back nine (his first nine holes) Saturday. And after bogeying No. 1 went on to card three birdies in his last eight holes to shoot a 2-under 70 and rocket up the individual leaderboard.

"He started off strong and, young player, kind of ran into a little trouble mid round," Small said of Herendeen, who earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors earlier this month. "He made birdie on two after a really strong recovery shot, and that got him recalibrated."

Ryan Voois and Jackson Buchanan both shot even-par 72s on Saturday. It was another steady round for Voois, who carded a 2-over 74 on Friday, but it was a major improvement for Buchanan. The Illini junior, who was runner-up in stroke play at last year's NCAA championship, shot a six-over 78 on Friday after a rash of double bogeys on the back nine.

"He didn't have his best at regionals either," Small said of Buchanan. "Maybe he's in his head a little bit, but (Saturday) was a big step to getting out of that and finding his rhythm."

Tyler Goecke followed up his opening-round 1-over 73 with another 1-over 73 on Saturday. Piercen Hunt's score was dropped Saturday — just four are counted — after he bogeyed seven holes and shot a 6-over 78.