UNLV takes one-shot lead at Ping/Golfweek Preview
WOODSTOCK, Ga. -- San Diego State’s Tom Berry was the only player in the field of 75 to cover 18 holes without making a bogey. When the senior from England tossed in a trio of birdies, it sent him to the top of the leaderboard Sunday following the opening round in the Ping/Golfweek Preview at the demanding Capital City Club Crabapple course.
Berry’s 3-under par 67 over the par-70, 7,248-yard Tom Fazio-designed layout gave him a one-stroke advantage over Kurt Kitayama of UNLV, Taylor Moore of Arkansas and Chris Robb of Chattanooga.
Another shot back and the only other players to break par were Pedro Figueiredo of UCLA and Chris Williams of Washington, the top-ranked amateur in the world. Four players finished at even par.
UNLV grabbed the team lead with a 1-over 281, one shot better than UCLA. New Mexico, Georgia Tech and San Diego State followed at 7-over 287 with Georgia and Arkansas sharing sixth at 288.
Golfweek preseason No. 1 Alabama struggled in with a 14-over 294 and is tied with Texas A&M for 13th in the 15-team field, while No. 2 and defending NCAA champion Texas is at 10-over 290 and tied for 10th with Kent State.
In addition to Kitayama’s 68, UNLV counted 71s from Kevin Penner, Blake Biddle ad A.J. McInerney. Carl Jonson had a 72.
“We played well,” said Rebel coach Dwaine Knight. “The wind started blowing pretty good out there, but the guys really hung in there. This is a good start on a very difficult golf course.”
UCLA coach Derek Freeman also was pleased with his team’s performance.
“We came out wanting to play well and overall I think we did,” Freeman said. “We still have to make some adjustments and get better and we’ll talk about that tonight and hopefully do that tomorrow.”
Playing in the last threesome on the course, Berry was steady and patient from start to finish.
He made his first birdie at the short, 315-yard, par-4, fifth hole. After driving into a greenside bunker, Berry blasted out and into the hole from 30 feet. He followed by sinking a 15-foot birdie at the par-3, sixth and finished off with a four-foot birdie putt on the par-3, 13th.
“I played well in our first tournament (6th at the Washington Husky) so I had some high expectations coming into this week,” Berry said. “I felt very confident on the greens all day.
“This is a ball strikers course and that’s my game. I’m very confident in my long irons and this is a long golf course so it’s like just everything fits for me.”
Moore made 10 consecutive pars to start out before nailing birdies at Nos. 11 and 12. He made bogey at 14, but came back with a birdie at 17.
Starting on the 10th hole, Cobb opened with a bogey, but made birdie at 14. He birdied the third and fifth holes, but made bogey at No. 7 before closing out with a birdie at the ninth.
Kitayama also made bogey on his opening hole (No. 10). He birdied the 15th but gave two shots back with bogeys at Nos. 1 and 2. Then he made his charge with birdies at Nos. 3, 5, 6 and 7.
“I hit some good irons shots and got the ball within 10-15 feet for my birdies,” said Kitayama, a sophomore from Chico, Calif. “The big thing was the par-3s. I birdied three of them and that’s big out here.
“My short game was solid and I really putted well,” he said. “That’s what you have to do out here.”
Coaches and players agreed the Crabapple course was a true test of golf and will no doubt be a major challenge come next May when it hosts the NCAA Men’s Division I Championship.
If you don’t think the course’s finishing holes are demanding and can jump up and send you reeling, just ask the Texas A&M team. The Aggies were among the leaders for 13 holes. But on the closing five holes the five players shot a whopping 17 over.
The Preview’s field of 75 players averaged 72.89 in the first round with the par-4, 480-yard, 14th hole playing the toughest at 4.63.
“This is one tough course,” Freeman said. “You have to be patient and know where to place your ball on the greens. It definitely tests you mentally. It’s a monster and challenges every part of your game.”
Added Knight, “This is one big golf course. You’ve really got to hit the shots. It’s in great shape and the greens are perfect. If you drive it well you’re rewarded, but if you get into the rough, even around the greens, you’re going to have a tough time.”
Texas coach John Fields may have said it best and in the most simplest way. Asked what he thought about the course, the veteran coach answered, “Wow!”
Yes, the Crabapple course -- wow indeed.