Fayetteville Regional: Arkansas surges into lead
Team leader: Arkansas (3-under 573)
Individual leaders: Austin Cook, Arkansas; Mitchell McLeroy, Stephen F. Austin; and Mario Clemens, SMU (4-under 140)
In position: 2. Illinois (574), 3. Texas (583), 4. Oklahoma State (590), 5. Kent State (591)
Chasing: T-6. Tulsa (595), T-6. SMU (595), 8. UNC-Wilmington (601), 9. Colorado (602)
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The Blessings of home
Host Arkansas surged from fifth to first after posting a 5-under 283, the lowest second-round team score.
After struggling to a 2-over 290 the previous day, the Hogs seemed to settle down in their home surroundings and take advantage of the course knowledge they have at Blessings Golf Club.
But getting off to a slow start is nothing new for the Razorbacks this season. More times than not, they had mediocre-to-poor first rounds but still managed to make decent comebacks. The latest time came in their previous start at the SEC Championship, where they shot 17 over and were tied for 11th after Round 1 only to charge back and finish sixth.
“It seems that’s how it’s been for us most of the season,” head coach Brad McMakin said. “I’m not sure why. But once again the guys hung in there, never gave up and today we were able to make a big run.”
Senior Austin Cook led the Arkansas attack with a bogey-free 4-under 68. Freshman Nicolas Echavarria added a 70, while fellow freshman Taylor Moore shot 72 and junior Sebastian Cappelen posted a 73.
“I feel it was a great team effort,” McMakin said. “They really came through and got up in position today. The key was we didn’t make any big numbers today like we did yesterday.
“I know one thing: I feel a lot better after today’s round than I did after yesterday’s round. After two rounds out here on this golf course and you’re under par, you’re playing some darn good golf.”
Arkansas was 7 over and in 12th place at one point early in Round 1, but rallied, and McMakin felt that carried over into the second round.
"The strong finish yesterday gave us momentum going into today, and the guys took advantage of it,” he said. “We have one round to go, we have home course advantage and the guys are playing well. So now we’ll go out and see what happens.”
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Illini still fightin’
For the past half-dozen years, Illinois has been a fixture at the NCAA Championship. Coach Mike Small is hoping to continue that trend and appears to be on the road to Atlanta with one round remaining in Fayetteville.
With a 4-over 292 Friday, the Fighting Illini dropped to second place behind Arkansas but still are sitting comfortably in the race for a top-5 finish and a trip to the finals May 28-June 2 at the Capital City Club's Crabapple Course near Atlanta.
Illinois appeared to be in control through the front nine, making the turn at 3 under on the day and 9 under for the tournament. But things turned south on hole Nos. 10-12, a stretch the team's four counters played in a combined 8 over, giving Arkansas the opening it needed to move up.
“Then we righted the ship and finished off well,” said Small, whose team played the final six holes in 2 under.
“We had a lot of adversity yesterday and in that one stretch today, but these guys are tough and they fought through it. They handled the adversity and stayed the course and I’m proud of them for that. We seem to be in a good position right now, but on this golf course you can’t take anything for granted. We have to come out tomorrow, stay focused, play well and take care of our business.”
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Mitchell McLeroy of Stephen F. Austin is not only the low man of the five individuals competing but is one of three players tied for first place going into the final round. . . . First-round individual leader Charlie Danielson of Illinois had his problems on Day 2. After an opening 65, the freshman battled to a 6-over 78 and fell to a tie for sixth. He had a double and a bogey along with three birdies on the front side, but he quickly tumbled with triple bogeys at Nos. 10 and 11 and a bogey at 13, before rebounding with a birdie at 14. . . . On the flip side, Danielson’s Illinois teammate Brian Campbell made one of the biggest improvements in the tournament. After his non-counting 77 the first day, Campbell came back with a 5-under 67, the best score in Round 2. He had four birdies, an eagle and just one bogey (at No. 17) in vaulting from T-49 to T-8.