A look at the Southwest Regional in Norman, Okla.:
Top Team: Washington, 286-281–567 (-9)
Top Individual: Thomas Pieters (Illinois), 68-69–137 (-7)
In position: 2. Florida State (571); 3. Texas (572); 4. Illinois (575); 5. Georgia Tech (576).
Chasing: 6. Oklahoma (579); 7. St. Mary’s (588).
LET THE WIND BLOW: One might think a team from the state of Washington would be considered wind players — or even enjoy playing in those conditions. But when the Washington Huskies were starting their second round and the wind started to kick into gear (20-25 mph during the day), coach Matt Thurmond was all smiles. “I just said, ‘bring it on wind,’ “ Thurmond said. And his Huskies responded with the day’s best round, a 7-under 281 for a 9-under 567 total and a four-stroke lead over first-round co-leader Florida State. “I’m not sure why it is but this team seems to do well when they have to be pushed and concentrate better and the wind did that,” Thurmond said. While it was a good day all around for the Huskies, it’s end is what pushed them to the top of the leader board. Washington played the 586-yard, par-5, 18th hole in 6 under as a team. As Thurmond put it, “Now that made it a great day.”
6 FOR 5: That’s pretty much what it’s come down to as the top half dozen teams have separated themselves from the 14-team field with one round to go. The top five finishers after Saturday’s play will advance to the NCAA finals at Riviera Country Club, May 29-June 3. Right now Georgia Tech holds down that all important fifth spot, but host team Oklahoma is just three behind the Yellow Jackets and four back of No. 4 Illinois. Next best is St. Mary’s, but a 14-over 302 in the second round leaves the Gaels 12 shots out of fifth. After that, it’s South Carolina at 20-over 596.
SHORT SHOTS: For the past month, Illinois sophomore Thomas Pieters has struggled with his putting. He began working with his coach, Mike Small, a distinguished player in his own right, and this week things started clicking. “I’ve really been rolling it good these past two days and it’s been nice to see the ball going in the hole,” said Pieters, whose 7-under 137 total gives him a one shot lead over Daniel Berger and a two-stroke edge over St. Mary’s freshman Jonathan De Los Reye. Under second round windy conditions Pieters shot 3-under 69 to go with his opening 68. “I really like this weather, it really suits me,” said the Belgium native. . . Come Saturday, two long time and most respected coaches in the game will bring their careers to and end at this regional. Neither Arizona’s Rick LaRose, whose Wildcats stand in 10th place and 24 shots out of fifth, nor UALR’s Wynn Norwood, who has individual entry Alfred Kersitis, who is tied for 23rd, will be moving on to Riviera. . .Weather forecast for Saturday’s final round is much the same as Friday with sunny skies and temps in the mid-80s. One change, the Oklahoma wind is expected to blow even harder so things could really get interesting.