8:49 p.m. CDT: USC’s Smith reverses his fortunes
STILLWATER, Okla. – USC’s Sam Smith hit 12 of 14 fairways in both his first and second rounds at the NCAA Championship. That’s about all those two days had in common, though.
Smith shot 71 Wednesday, 20 strokes lower than the previous day (to add insult to injury, he was disqualified after signing for a 90). Smith’s comeback wasn’t just good for the psyche, though. It helped the Trojans get back in contention for a spot in the match-play bracket.
“I was disappointed because I knew I could’ve done a lot better than that, like at least 20 strokes better than that,” Smith said Wednesday. “I wasn’t mad because I was swinging well. I was just kind of shocked that it amounted to that, instead of like an 80.
“I just brushed it off and had a clean slate today, and tried to help the team because obviously my chances of winning are very slim, well, obviously impossible because I was disqualified.”
Smith’s 71 was the low round in the Trojans’ 1-over 289 Wednesday. They finished the day in 10th place, two shots outside the top eight. USC was in 18th place after shooting 15-over 303 in the first round. After Thursday’s third round, eight teams will advance to match play.
Smith said he only had one penalty stroke in Tuesday’s debacle. He said his struggles came around the greens. He hit 14 greens Wednesday.
“I was in play the whole time,” Smith said. “From 30 yards out to the hole, it took me forever to get the ball in the hole.”
USC, No. 17 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, is trying to go from worst to first at Karsten Creek. The Trojans finished last in the Ping/Golfweek Preview at the beginning of this season.
6:52 p.m. CDT: Keep an eye on the Georgia Bulldogs
STILLWATER, Okla. – In each of the last two seasons, the winners of the NCAA Championship have been worthy players in the game, but could still be called surprises by traditional standards.
In 2009 at Inverness, Texas A&M was not a team that many were selecting prior to the start of the week. However, the Aggies conquered match play and won the title. Texas A&M was ranked No. 14 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings entering the championship.
Last year it was Augusta State winning the title at the Honors Course. The Jaguars were a bigger dot on the radar, ranked No. 5, but they were a Division II school competing in a Div. I world and there were not a lot of preseason takers.
Who is that team this year? I am thinking Georgia fits the mold perfectly to this point.
The Bulldogs have talent. Heck, they have a player in their lineup that can be called a “tour winner!” Senior Russell Henley recently won a Nationwide Tour event as an amateur. With fellow teammates Hudson Swafford and Harris English, also seniors, this team can’t be overlooked at this point.
“We are in position to control our own destiny and that’s where we want to be,” Georgia coach Chris Haack said.
The Bulldogs sit in fourth place after 36 holes and should feel comfortable. Georgia should be a lock to find a spot in match play and If they do they will enter Phase 2 of this championship ranked 14th – just as Texas A&M did two years ago.
– Lance Ringler
4:53 p.m. CDT: Hansen’s NCAA run cut short due to illness
STILLWATER, Okla. – UC Davis freshman Matt Hansen was living a dream a few weeks ago when he won the NCAA Southwest Regional title. Not only was it the biggest victory of his young and blossoming career, but it also enabled him to earn one of six individual qualifying spots into this week’s NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek.
But his dream bubble burst Wednesday when was forced to withdraw from his first national championship due to illness.
According to UC Davis coach Cy Williams, his star player had not been feeling well since they arrived in Oklahoma. Still, Hansen played a practice round on Monday, and in Tuesday’s opening round shot a solid 1-over 73 and was tied for 34th.
“That was an incredible round,” Williams said. “He was so sick. If he were feeling well, there’s no telling how low he could have gone.”
Hansen only got worse as his 2:20 p.m. tee time approached. He made it to the first tee and officials delayed the group’s start for some 10 minutes hoping Hansen’s condition might improve.
“He really gave it a try,” Williams said. “He hit his tee shot and his second shot, but it was apparent he couldn’t go on any longer.”
Williams said he wasn’t sure what Hansen’s sickness is or what brought it on, but noted “it’s the same thing he had in February after we got back from a tournament in Hawaii and he ended up missing three weeks of school and our next two tournaments.”
Williams said Hansen would rest the remainder of the day and night and go from there.
If UC Davis had its team in the competition and Hansen’s health improved drastically, he could come back Thursday and play in the final stroke-play round. However, as an individual, it’s not certain if he would be allowed to do that.
Donnie Wagner, assistant director of championships for the NCAA, said if Hansen requested to play the third round it would probably have to go before the NCAA Golf Committee to give a yes or no. Wagner also said this type of situation certainly will be brought to the table this summer at the annual NCAA Golf Committee meetings.
– Ron Balicki
• • •
3:49 p.m.: UGA’s English consistently inconsistent at NCAAs
STILLWATER, Okla. – Follow the bouncing ball – or, in this case, the play of Georgia senior Harris English. It’d be just about the same thing in looking at his first two rounds at the NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek.
In the opening round, English made and eagle and four birdies to start and was 6 under after 10 holes. But he made a double and a pair of bogeys finishing out for a 2-under 70.
He bounced right back in Wednesday’s second round and, starting on the back side, birdied 10 and 11. He gave those right back with bogeys on 13 and 14, only to move back to 4 under for the tournament (and second place at the time) with birdies at 15 and 18.
But English again took two steps back, with bogeys at Nos. 4 and 5. He got another birdie at 6 before closing with three pars to stand at 3-under 141 and two strokes behind leader John Peterson of LSU, who shot a competitive-course-record 7-under 65.
– Ron Balicki
• • •
3:04 p.m.: LSU’s Peterson (65) goes low at Karsten Creek
STILLWATER, Okla. – Karsten Creek’s ninth hole is a perfect illustration of the contrast between John Peterson’s first and second rounds at the NCAA Championship.
On Tuesday, Peterson pulled his gap-wedge shot from about 115 yards into the trees left of the green and made bogey. It was the kind of shot that’d make a 10-handicapper cringe.
He knocked his shot stiff from a similar distance today, then holed the putt to complete a 65. Peterson is at 5-under 139 (74-65) and holds a one-shot lead over Georgia Tech’s James White (67-73) after Wednesday’s morning wave. Peterson’s 65 is believed to be Karsten Creek’s competitive course record.
“This is my best round in college so far,” said Peterson, who’s playing his final college event.
Peterson was 6 over par nine holes into the NCAA Championship. He shot 11 under over his next 27 holes. On Wednesday, he hit all 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens.
“I was just doing stupid things and paying for them. You can’t do stupid things out here,” Peterson said. “I’m good enough to where if I keep playing, it will turn around eventually. I just tried to keep swinging.”
Here’s how Peterson made his birdies (and one eagle) on Wednesday:
• No. 12: Hit lob wedge to 2 feet
• No. 14: Holed flop shot for eagle on par 5
• No. 16: Hit 7-iron to 5 feet
• No. 18: Two-putted for birdie on par 5
• No. 4: Made 40-foot birdie putt
• No. 5: Hit 9-iron to within inches
• No. 9: Hit gap wedge within inches
His only bogey came on the reachable par-5 first hole, where his second shot plugged in the bunker and he couldn’t advance it out of the sand.
Peterson will stay amateur this summer to try to make the Walker Cup team. He was a long-shot for the team at the beginning of 2011. A victory this week at Karsten Creek would make him a favorite.
Peterson also won one of the year’s top amateur events, the Jones Cup, in February. He beat Jordan Spieth, the teen who’s made a name for himself with strong finishes at the past two Byron Nelson Championships, in a playoff.
Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth was one of Peterson’s home courses growing up. It’d be an unfair comparison to say Peterson’s round Wednesday was Ben Hogan-esque. It was impressive nonetheless.
– Sean Martin
• • •
1:52 p.m.: Darr, Moseley ahead of coaching timetables
STILLWATER, Okla. – If you were looking for an early-tournament surprise, you might point toward Ohio State and Kennesaw State. The two teams will start the second round inside the top eight, which is where all 30 teams here at the NCAA Championship want to be after three rounds of stroke play.
However, for the Owls and Buckeyes, they just may be a bit ahead of schedule. Kennesaw State coach Jay Moseley and Ohio State coach Donnie Darr are each in their second year with their program. And it’s safe to say that this week’s possible accomplishments would be a bonus for their respective schools.
“It means a lot; words really can’t describe it,” Moseley said. “For a program like ours, to be where we are today, in position to make a run, the guys are excited and really think they belong. We believe we belong here and can compete and play with these guys.”
Kennesaw State has not finished outside the top 6 in any event this year. (Granted, the Owls played the weakest regular-season schedule –134th – of any team at the finals.)
For Ohio State, it’s somewhat of a homecoming. Darr spent a couple of seasons here at Oklahoma State as an assistant coach and is familiar with the surroundings.
“The conditions are good for us to come to national championship on a golf course that I know so well,” Darr said. “I was fortunate when I took over at Ohio State – we had a nice core of players that worked really hard and have done a nice job of getting better and believe in the systems and principles I believe in.”
It brought a smile to the faces of Moseley and Darr when asked if they were ahead of the timetable they had laid out for the program when they took over two years ago.
“They have been a great group to work with since the day I arrived on campus,” Moseley said. “I have told people I obviously did not see this kind of success coming this fast, but our goal was to be here this year. I told the guys in our meeting in August that there are 100 teams that set their goal to be here, and you have to go above and beyond what all of those teams strive for and want to achieve.”
For Darr, his team’s good play is some good news for an athletic department deep in negative news surrounding the Ohio State football program.
“You are always trying to do the right thing and put your guys in position to win and hope your fan base supports you and acknowledge the golf team.” Darr said.
Another good round, and both schools’ fan bases should take notice.
– Lance Ringler
• • •
11:56 a.m.: Group 34 goes low on 14th
STILLWATER, Okla. – Group No. 34 on the tee sheet finished the par-5 14th hole a combined 6 under par.
LSU’s Ken Looper holed out from fairway, while Texas’ Toni Hakula and Georgia’s Hudson Swafford each made eagle putts.
– Lance Ringler
• • •
11:10 a.m.: Could Ga. Tech’s White win PoY?
STILLWATER, Okla. – Georgia Tech’s James White is adding his name to this tight player-of-the-year race. White, who shot 67 Tuesday, is 7 under after 27 holes and holds a three-shot lead.
White has won twice this season, but is ranked outside the top 10 in both the Golfweek (14) and Golfstat (11) rankings.
UCLA freshman Patrick Cantlay is the front-runner for player-of-the-year honors. He’s No. 1 in both rankings and has finished first four times this season, including a six-shot victory at the NCAA West Regional.
White, who won prestigious titles this season at the U.S. Collegiate and Puerto Rico Classic, won’t be able to win Golfweek’s award – that goes to the No. 1 player in our rankings – but the Jack Nicklaus Award is selected by voters.
If White wins, it’ll be interesting to see how the Nicklaus panel votes. Would the voters favor Cantlay, who was more consistent and won more often, or would they go with White, whose three wins included the season’s biggest trophy?
– Sean Martin
• • •
10:54 a.m. CDT: Gooch, Einhaus get no love on local TV
STILLWATER, Okla. – Last night, after I watched the Miami Heat defeat the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals – full disclosure: I’m a Heat fan – I turned the channel to the local news to catch a few highlights.
All year long, I was told that Stillwater is a college golf town. After watching one of the local newscasts, it was somewhat hard to believe. The sports segment of the show did, in fact, open with coverage of the national championship. However, they showed a putt from Morgan Hoffmann, Kevin Tway and Peter Uihlein. Totally understandable, since they are the marquee names. But the thing is, Talor Gooch and Sean Einhaus were the Cowboys’ leaders in Round 1. Both Gooch and Einhaus were even par, whereas the “Big Three” were a combined 9 over par.
After the round, no interviews were conducted with any player or coach from the tournament, but the news did interview someone. Rather than interview a Cowboys golfer playing this week, they opted to interview Brandon Weeden, who was added to the roster in the spring, and who also happens to be the quarterback of the football team. To make matters worse, no comments he made were about the championship. Instead, it was all about preparing for the football season.
I understand football is king all across the country, but we’re at an NCAA Championship! Weeden was out supporting his golf teammates, and rather than ask him to talk about golf, they ask him about offseason football.
For 30 seconds, it appeared that this indeed was a golf town. But after that, it was clear football is still king.
– Asher Wildman
• • •
10:37 a.m.: Uihlein makes turn in 5-under 31
STILLWATER, Okla. – Peter Uihlein single-handedly helped Oklahoma State move up the leaderboard Wednesday morning in the second round of the NCAA Championship.
Uihlein shot 5-under 31 on Karsten Creek’s front nine while several teammates were making big numbers. Oklahoma State, which started the day in eighth place, was 2 under par for the day – and in a three-way tie for third, at 2 over – when Uihlein made the turn.
The top eight teams after Thursday’s third round will advance to match play. The individual champion will be crowned after 54 holes of stroke play.
Uihlein’s strong play moved him into second place individually. At 4 under par for the tournament, Uihlein was three shots behind Georgia Tech’s James White, who followed up his first-round 67 by going 2 under par on his opening nine Wednesday. White is seeking his third title this season.
Uihlein made an eagle putt of about 25 feet on Karsten Creek’s first hole, holed a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 2, sank a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 4 and chipped in for birdie on the sixth hole.
Oklahoma State freshman Talor Gooch, who shot 35 on the front nine, was the only other Cowboy to break par on the first nine. He followed with bogeys on Nos. 11 and 13, though.
The rest of the Cowboys were hurt by big numbers early in Wednesday’s round.
Kevin Tway shot 1-over 37 on the front, recovering from a triple bogey on the par-4 second hole with birdies on Nos. 7 and 9. Morgan Hoffmann also shot 37, his scorecard marred by a bogey on No. 4 and a double bogey on the fifth hole. Sean Einhaus was 4 over par after three holes today.
At 6 over par through 12, Einhaus seems destined to be the team’s throw-out score today, which puts extra emphasis on the scores from the Cowboys’ other four players.
– Sean Martin