Top team: Florida State and Texas, 9-under 278
Top Individual: Jordan Spieth (Texas), 6-under 66
In position: 3. Illinois (284), T4. St. Mary’s and Washington (286).
Chasing: 6. Oklahoma (287), 7. Arizona (289), 8. Georgia Tech (290), 9. Sacramento State (292)
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RETREAT – RESTED & READY: Florida State coach Trey Jones annually takes his team on a short retreat to Panama City, Fla., following the end of the regular season and prior to regionals. The Seminoles took their retreat this year May 8-10.
“Usually the courses there beat us up pretty good,” Jones said. “But this year they didn’t. This year everyone played well and most important of all we came out of it with a lot of team unity and with confidence in each other.”
It definitely showed Thursday during the opening round of the NCAA Southwest Regional Championship at Jimmie Austin Golf Club in Norman, Okla. The Seminoles, the No. 4 seed and ranked No. 24 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, shot a 9-under-par 278 to tie top-ranked Texas with two rounds to play.
“It was a good team effort,” Jones said. “The golf course showed some teeth when the wind started blowing this afternoon. It took discipline and execution. And we did that.”
Texas coach John Fields was equally praising of his team’s performance and the golf course.
“We got off to a good solid start and Jordan playing as well as he did definitely helps,” he said. “It was one of those round where the guys just did a really good job. The golf course is tough and the greens are true and quick and very challenging and we did a good job with them.”
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SHORT, BUT SWEET: Leading up to the start of this year’s region championship, Jordan Spieth admitted he was “playing poorly.” He didn’t feel much better while warming up on the range before his round.
“So I decided to use a compact swing, pretty much a three-quarter swing just to control the ball and keep it in the fairway,” said the 2011 U.S. Walker Cup team member.
The strategy worked. Spieth shot a competitive course record 6-under-par 66 to grab a one-shot lead over Brooks Koepka of Florida State and two-stroke edge over Ben Geyer of St. Mary’s and Thomas Pieters of Illinois.
“I tried to hit a few long (tee shots) and ended up snap hooking them,” Spieth said. “I was fortunate those didn’t hurt me much. Mostly I just tried to get it on the greens (in regulation) and go from there.”
Spieth, a top contender for freshman of the year, made birdie at No. 8, then sank a 30-footer for eagle at the par-5 eighth, and added a birdie at No. 9.
He got it to 7 under when he birdied holes 12, 13 and 14, but made his only bogey at the par-4 16th, when he tried to punch a 9-iron shot into the wind and “chunked it.” From the front edge of the green he putted to three feet and missed his par try.
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SHORT SHOTS: When Koepka sank his birdie putt his final hole (No. 9), it not only moved him into second place and just a shot behind Spieth, but enabled his Seminoles to share the team lead . . . .there were nine players who shot in the 60s and a total of 19 who finished under par with another half dozen in at even par . . . .host team Oklahoma slipped a bit midway in its round then made a solid finish and remains in the thick of things for one of the top-five spots for advancing to the NCAA finals. The Sooners shot 1-under 287 and are just a shot out of a fourth place tie and three back of third place.