BURLINGTON, Iowa – A day after struggling down the stretch and losing the lead, Oklahoma made sure it finished strong this time around.
The Sooners, who trailed Houston by two shots after the first round of the Golfweek Conference Challenge, turned in a 10-under 278 Monday at Spirit Hollow Golf Club to take a 13-shot lead heading into Tuesday’s final round.
“(Sunday), we played just as good as we did today; we just didn’t finish strong,” Oklahoma head coach Ryan Hybl said. “But today the guys really put it together. We made some birdies coming in, and it was a really nice finish for our guys.”
The Sooners combined to play Nos. 15-18 in 9 over in the first round. But Monday, they totaled seven birdies on those four holes.
Three of those birdies belonged to sophomore Beau Titsworth, who birdied four of his final five holes to finish with a 4-under 68 and grab a share of the individual lead with LSU’s Stewart Jolly, Ball State’s Tyler Merkel and Central Arkansas’ James Newton.
After his only bogey of the day, at No. 13, Titsworth caught fire with the putter. He birdied Nos. 14, 16, 17 and 18 with putts of 10, 2, 20 and 10 feet, respectively. Now he’s hoping that strong play translates into not only his first career collegiate top 10, but his first win.
“One of my goals is to win a tournament, so it’d be nice to get it out of the way and hopefully keep progressing from there,” said Titsworth, whose best collegiate finish is a tie for 12th at the 2012 Gopher Invitational in his freshman debut. “I try not to think about it; the more you think about it, the more you get caught up in it.”
Hybl looks forward to seeing what Titsworth can do with a share of the lead Tuesday.
“In my opinion, last year, he underachieved, and he’ll agree with that,” Hybl said. “So this year I’m hoping he can come out here with what we saw this afternoon; that is a guy that can hit fairways and greens, make some putts and before you know it, you add them up and it’s a round like the one he shot today.”
Titsworth wasn’t the only Sooner to close strong Monday, though.
Junior Michael Gellerman began the day 4 under through his first five holes. He then fell back to 1 over for his round after a bogey at the par-3 15th. But birdies on Nos. 17-18 helped salvage a good round at 1-under 71.
“That’s what we always are talking about, making sure you take care of your business, take care of the small things,” Hybl said, “and hopefully when you add up your score, everything is going to be OK.”
Freshman Max McGreevy played his final 16 holes in 5 under after a double bogey at the par-5 second hole, including making birdies on Nos. 7-9. He finished with a 3-under 69 and is 2 under along with teammate Michael Schoolcraft in his college debut.
“Max believes he’s ready to go win a golf tournament,” Hybl said.
That was something that Titsworth might not have been ready to do in his first tournament as a freshman, Hybl said. But that doesn’t mean Titsworth doesn’t have any advice for his young teammate.
“I know I got caught up in the fact that I’m playing with all these guys who are about to go to the next level,” Titsworth said. “Max just needs to realize he belongs here.”
And if they haven’t realized it by now, the Sooners, No. 24 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, belong up there with the nation’s best, too. They can prove it again with a victory Tuesday.
But Hybl isn’t about to agree with that assessment just yet. He knows his young-but-talented team will be in for a stressful final round, and he’s excited to see how they respond.
“I told them to make sure they’re humble in their approach, because tomorrow is a totally different day,” Hybl said. “Playing with the lead is way different. We have a couple guys who have a chance to get a win individually, so their feeling will be different, as well.
“So at the end of the day, we’re hoping they can come out here and showcase some more firepower and hopefully have a chance to win a golf tournament.”