Thomas, 'Bama sweep titles in Puerto Rico
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico – The Alabama men’s team made a loud and clear statement with its victory Tuesday at the Puerto Rico Invitational: Don’t forget the Crimson Tide.
With many college golf observers caught up in the strong fall seasons of top-ranked Texas, along with No. 2 Auburn and Pac-12 rivals USC, UCLA and Oregon – who rounded out the top 5 – ninth-ranked Alabama had become something of an afterthought in the national conversation. With their dominating performance at Rio Mar Country Club, the Tide are front and center once more.
With four players among the top 7 individuals, including medalist Justin Thomas, and three consecutive sub-280 team scores, Alabama shot 30-under 834 (276-279-279) and rolled to an 18-stroke victory over Clemson at Rio Mar’s River Course. Purdue finished third, another four shots back.
Thomas, a freshman, took home his second title in five college starts, notching five birdies in a seven-hole stretch on the back nine (Nos. 11-17). Teammates Bobby Wyatt (T-4), Hunter Hamrick and Trey Mullinax (T-7), and Cory Whitsett (T-19) also posted top-20 finishes.
“I am very proud how this team played. . . . When we get all five guys in the match, we are as good as anyone in the country,” Alabama head coach Jay Seawell said.
Thomas shot 67-71-68 at Rio Mar’s River Course, winning the individual title by a stroke over Oklahoma State’s Talor Gooch, who made a charge with a 6-under 66 in the final round. Georgia Tech’s James White (72) finished third at 8 under.
Texas, playing without freshman standout Justin Spieth, had its four-tournament winning streak snapped. The Longhorns struggled to a tie for sixth with a 3-over 867 total, 33 shots behind Alabama. Spieth received a sponsor’s exemption into the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club, site of this spring’s NCAA Championship. Spieth missed the cut at Riviera.