Golf Team Makes Charge at NCAA Championship (UPDATED 9:30 p.m.)
Yellow Jackets in third place after 36 holes, final round of stroke play Thursday
June 2, 2010
Ooltewah, Tenn. - Paul Haley and Kyle Scott, the first two players out on the course for Georgia Tech Wednesday, each shot 3-under-par 69 and led a Yellow Jacket charge into third place after 36 holes of the NCAA Men's Division I Golf Championship at The Honors Course.
The Atlantic Coast Conference champions shot a 6-under-par 282, their fifth subpar round in eight since the conference tournament began, and positioned themselves to advance to the match play portion of the national championship with a good final round Thursday.
Play was interrupted by weather for two hours Wednesday afternoon, forcing play to be halted at 8:45 p.m. due to darkness with nine teams still on the course. They will resume their second rounds at 7 a.m., with third-round tee times pushed back two hours. Tech is paired with Florida State and Oklahoma State and will tee off the first hole at 2:58 p.m.
After Thursday's third round, and individual champion will be crowned and the field will be cut to eight teams, which will compete for the national championship at match play. The match play tournament will take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday. As of the end of play Wednesday night, 10 teams were within eight shots of the Jackets.
"There's no being comfortable here," said head coach Bruce Heppler, whose despite the good round Wednesday remains closer to eighth place (5 shots) than first (10 shots). The Jackets were in a similar position following 36 holes of the NCAA Southeast Regional two weeks ago, then went out and shot a closing 272 (8-under-par).
"You've got to try and win the tournament. We've set out to try and not watch the scoreboard. We've told the guys that [assistant coach Christian Newton] and I will keep score, and we'll let them know if they're playing on Friday or not. If you're doing that stuff, then you need to be a spectator, not a participant."
Tech was outdone Wednesday only by conference kin Florida State, which posted a 9-under-par score of 279 and took a five-shot lead over first-round co-leader Oklahoma State (4-under 284). The Seminoles stand at 14-under-par 562 for 36 holes, while the Cowboys have a two-round total of 9-under 567. The Yellow Jackets are another five shots back at 4-under 572. Augusta State holds fourth place at 1-under 575.
Despite the weather delay, San Diego was able to complete a 6-under round of 282 and move into fifth place ahead of Florida at even-par 576. Washington and Clemson were next at 1-over 577. Oregon and Arizona State were tied for ninth at 2-over 578, with Virginia, one of the six teams still on the course when play was halted, in 11th at 3-over. Stanford and UCLA were tied for 12th at 4-over 580. All of those teams remain within striking distance of eighth place.
That Tech's charge Wednesday was led by its fourth (Scott) and fifth (Haley) players was a considerable confidence boost to the Yellow Jackets as a whole.
"That was phenomenal," said Heppler. "We won the ACC's, and it was Kyle and Paul there. You get your four and five guys to do that, and you're in great shape. I felt coming in here that we had five guys that were playing good. We had five guys under par the last day at regionals. We need four good scores tomorrow."
Haley, a junior from Dallas, Texas, who was first off for the Yellow Jackets Wednesday, continued his fine play in the post-season with five birdies and two bogeys. It was his third straight subpar round and sixth in eight rounds dating back to the ACC Championship. At 5-under 139, he is tied for fifth place, four strokes behind individual leader Alex Ching of San Diego (9-under 135), who fired a 66 Wednesday.
"I played better than I did yesterday," said Haley. "I hit my wedges fantastic. I think I had six wedges today, and got five of them up and down. That carried me through, and I hit a couple other shots close."
Scott, whose 78 Tuesday did not count in the Jackets' round, had no bogeys on his card Wednesday, getting birdies at 8, 9 and 11 and scrambling for pars at 17 and 18 after sending his tee shots offline.
"I just kept it in play today," said Scott. "Yesterday, I hit it into a lot of trouble off the tee. Today I proceeded not to hit it into trouble. So it was a lot easier for me since I was playing my second shots from good places. You've got to place it well off the tee, then you have a chance to attack the pins. It's nice when the other guys can look at the leaderboard and see that the guys ahead of them have put up good numbers."
Tech's top three players, John-Tyler Griffin, Chesson Hadley and James White, each shot even-par 72. Griffin, who shot a 71 in the opening round Tuesday, is tied for 21st place individually at 1-under 143. Hadley is tied for 33rd at even-par 144.
"It's great to know when you're out there that everybody is in the game," said Heppler. "That gives you a chance to make a mistake. It was nice going into No. 15, where we have trouble yesterday, that everyone was in it. It was good playing on everyone's part today."
The Jackets might have an even better cushion had they not given four shots back at the last hole. At the end of the day, they were much closer to eighth place (five strokes) than first (10 strokes). The difference between first place and eighth after the first round was four shots, after 36 holes it is 15.
Besides FSU and Tech, San Diego made the biggest move upward Wednesday, moving into a tie for fifth place with a 6-under-par 282 for the day. Virginia was at 9-under for the day, moving from 25th to 11th when its round was halted. Texas A&M, which began the day in fourth place, took the biggest fall after a 16-over-par round of 304, winding up in 27th place.