Leader: Texas A&M (11-under 565)
Individual leader: Nacho Elvira, Texas A&M; Dustin Garza, Wichita State (8-under 136)
The top 5: 2. Texas Tech (566); 3. TCU (568); 4. Wichita State (573); 5. Pepperdine (574)
Close behind: T-6. North Florida, Auburn (578); T-8. Tulsa, Baylor (580)
A Texas shootout: That’s what’s in store for Saturday as host Texas A&M, Texas Tech and TCU tussle for the title in the final groupings. With an even-par second round, the Aggies showed they are not totally invincible at The Traditions Club. Texas Tech, along with Rice, had the day’s best round at 4 under, while TCU shot 3 over.
Texas A&M coach J.T. Higgins had mixed emotions after the round.
“I’m happy we’re in first place, but I don’t think you should ever have to count a 77 on your home course,” he said. “Still, where we are going into the final round of a regional championship is what we’ve prepared for all year. We just have to go out and do what we do and everything will fall into place.”
One thing is certain: The final wave of threesomes won’t be strangers to each other. The Aggies, Red Raiders and Horned Frogs have seen quite a bit of each other all season, especially this spring.
“I think everyone on each of the teams will be pretty comfortable with each other,” Higgins said.
Added TCU coach Bill Montigel: “We certainly know how good A&M and Tech are, and what we all are capable of doing. But I also have been to so many of these (regionals) to know you have to be ready to play. I know anything can happen the last day. I’m really looking forward to (tomorrow). That’s what it’s all about. It’s all on the line. It’s going to be fun.”
On paper, the Aggies easily have the edge. A month ago at the Aggie Invitational on this course, A&M shot 38-under (play-6-count-5 format) and beat top-ranked Oklahoma State by 21 shots. Texas Tech finished third, 25 shots back, while TCU was sixth, 52 strokes behind.
When a snowman is a good thing: The eighth victory of the season is within reach for Wichita State senior Dustin Garza. The Missouri Valley Conference champion and its Player of the Year has won seven times already and looks primed to make it No. 8.
Going into Saturday’s final round, Garza stands at 8-under 136 and shares the lead with Texas A&M junior Nacho Elvira. They hold a two-stroke edge over a quartet of players: Russell Henley of Georgia, Kevin Phelan of North Florida and TCU’s Daniel Jennevret and Johan deBeer, who had a second-round-tying best 67 after starting the day with three birdies and an eagle.
“It was an up and down round,” said Garza, who had seven birdies, including four in a row to start the day, to go with his three bogeys and a double. “I played perfect golf for four holes and then just made a few mistakes.”
While Garza is after his eighth win this season, Elvira is hoping to add No. 2 to his career total and first since the Barona Cup in the spring of 2008.
“I hit the ball solid, but just couldn’t make putts on the back nine,” said Elvira, who was 3 under after six holes. “I was rolling the ball well, so maybe tomorrow the putts will fall.”
Feast or famine: Georgia, No. 12 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings and seeded No. 2 this week, will need maybe its greatest final-round effort in years if it hopes to earn a trip to The Honors Course for the NCAA finals. The Bulldogs stand in 11th place in the 14-team field at 9-over 585. That’s 11 shots behind fifth-place Pepperdine. Georgia would have to jump past six teams to gain the fifth and final spot to the NCAA Champsionhip. Georgia has not missed a finals appearance since coach Chris Haack’s first season as coach in 1996-97 and along the way have won a pair of NCAA titles.
What do the Bulldogs have to do in the final round?
“Maybe we can quit and count our scores after nine holes,” Haack said with a laugh. “Seriously, we need to come out and fire at the flags and make some birdies.”
They also need to learn how to play the par-3 ninth hole and par-4 18th a little better. At No. 18 in the first two rounds and at No. 9 in the second round, they are a combined 11-over par – and those are all counters.
Aces of Auburn: After two rounds at the South Central Regional the hole-in-one score is Auburn 2, Rest of the Field 0. The Tigers got their first ace in the opening round when Cole Moreland holed his 6-iron tee shot at the 203-yard ninth hole. The next day, teammate Will McCurdy added to the count at the 210-yard 16th hole when his 5-iron shot found the bottom of the cup.
Ouch….14 times over: We’re all familiar with a bogey, a double bogey, a triple bogey and even a quadruple bogey. But what do you call it when you’re 14-over par on one hole? Maybe we call it a Zaytoun bogey because that’s what North Carolina junior Henry Zaytoun experienced Friday.
Starting on the 10th hole, Zaytoun was 2-over par after six holes as he came to the tee at the par-3 16th. Then the nightmare of all golfing nightmares, as it took Zaytoun 17 strokes to complete the hole.
“I’ve never come close to anything like this before and hopefully will never again,” Zaytoun said after completing the round. “It was unbelievable. Everything I did went wrong. It was a disaster with a capital D.”
It began when he snap-hooked his tee shot into a patch of tall reeds. He chopped out, but his ball hit a cart path and went out of bounds. Having to drop in the same spot, he again found himself in a mess of trouble.
“My club kept on catching on the reeds and I stayed in there for like three shots,” he said. “Then I hit it into the water two, I don’t know, maybe three times. I can’t remember now. Finally I chipped backwards to a safe spot, hit it one onto the green and two-putted from about 20 feet.”
Oh yeah, he had to make a 5-foot knee-knocker for the 17.
Still, he had a smile on his face – what else can you do? – as he signed his scorecard.
“I think I broke 90,” he said with a laugh.
He shot 89, actually. After turning with 52 on the back nine, he closed with a 1-over 37 on the front, meaning he played 17 holes in 3 over.
“I could have made a better score (at 16) if I just took my time and was mindful of the situation and thought things out,” Zaytoun said. “But once things started going downhill I got frustrated and just seemed to lose any sense of trying to play smart.
Zaytoun opened with 75, and even with the 89 and 20-over 165 total he’s not in dead last. Actually, he’s tied for 70th in the 75-player field.
Quote of the day: “It was extremely hard watching it all happen. I felt so bad for him because you could tell he was trying his best. It’s something I hope I never see again, or better yet, ever happen to me.” – Rice’s Christopher Brown, who was in the threesome and watched as Zaytoun made a 17 on the par-3 16th hole.