Notes: UCF's Eason is bogey-free at the NCAAs
PHOTOS: NCAA Championship (Round 2)
View images of Round 2 at the Men's NCAA Championship at Capital City Club Crabapple Course near Atlanta, GA.
MILTON, Ga. Of the 156 players competing this week at the NCAA Championship, just one player has gone 36 holes without a bogey.
That player is Central Florida junior Greg Eason, who carded a 4-under 66 Wednesday at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple course to move into a tie for second place individually at 6 under.
His blemish-free performance also has the Knights, who just missed out on match play last year, in ninth place at 1 over, just one shot back of eighth-place Texas A&M.
“I’m sure he made one (bogey) in practice this past week,” Central Florida head coach Bryce Wallor said.
Wallor credits Eason’s performance to a discussion the two had during the John Hayt Invitational earlier this spring.
“We had a real good discussion about managing the golf ball and positioning the ball, rather than just playing aggressively; playing a game of chess,” Wallor said.
More strategy and less brawn, you could say.
“I’m trying to position the ball where I don’t want it rather than where I can score the best from,” said Eason, who made four birdies, including three in his last six holes.
He closed his round by making a 20-footer for birdie at the par-4 18th. When the putt dropped, the rest of the UCF players let out a big roar – “It was really nice, actually,” Eason said of the reaction.
Eason has five straight top 10s entering the NCAA Championship. That includes shared medalist honors at the Augusta State Invitational, a fourth-place finish at the Conference USA Championship and a victory at the NCAA Tempe Regional. He became the first UCF player to win a regional crown in Tempe, too.
“These last few months, I’ve played some great golf,” Eason said. “Everything seems to be coming around this semester.”
• • •
TIDE ROLL, ROLL BACK: Alabama head coach Jay Seawell said it best.
“The golf course gives and it sneakily takes away a little bit,” Seawell said after Alabama struggled down the stretch after opening strong for a second consecutive day.
Alabama is a combined 15 under in its first seven holes through two rounds. But the Crimson Tide was 5 over in its last four holes (Nos. 6-9) on Tuesday before going 2 over on Nos. 15-18 on Wednesday.
Despite Alabama sitting in fourth place at 9 under, Seawell feels like his team can do better.
“I think we need to sit down tonight as a team and talk about where we are missing,” Seawell said. “Everybody kind of made some bogeys on the hard holes and that’s why they’re hard, but what do we need to do to change that.”
Leading the way for the Crimson Tide is sophomore Justin Thomas, who is 5 under for the tournament after a 2-under 68 Wednesday. After missing just two greens Tuesday, he missed only four in his second round. Thomas said he’s having one of his best ballstriking tournaments of his career so far.
That is, with the exception of his final seven holes Wednesday. Up to that point, Thomas had hit every green and was 3 under. He did, however, hold on for a 1-over finish the rest of the way.
“I grinded and made some pretty good par putts that kind of saved my life,” Thomas said.
No Alabama player was spared a rough stretch Wednesday. Cory Whitsett bogeyed Nos. 15-16. Bobby Wyatt didn’t make a birdie after No. 7. Scott Strohmeyer made six birdies and an eagle, but also had five bogeys and a triple bogey at No. 9. And Trey Mullinax closed his front nine with bogeys at Nos. 8-9.
That can’t happen Thursday if Alabama wants to play itself into the top spot heading into match play for the second straight season. And don’t think the Crimson Tide, ranked second in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, doesn’t care about getting that No. 1 seed.
“I think you have a mindset (that) you want to win,” Seawell said. “You go with the mindset of trying to win. If you do anything less than that, I think it’s a bad habit.”
• • •
PLAYING GOOD DEFENSE: Through two rounds on the Crabapple course, the defending champs are playing well.
Texas, the 2012 NCAA team champion, shot 9-under 271 Wednesday to move into third place at 10 under. The Longhorns, ranked third by Golfweek, had all five players shoot par or better in the second round. Brandon Stone and Julio Vegas each shot 2-under 68 for the second straight day, and Kramer Hickok’s 66 moved him to 2 under for the tournament.
“It doesn’t always happen like that (all five guys shooting par or better), so you’re really appreciative when it does happen,” Texas head coach John Fields said. “I feel like my guys just played really good golf these last couple of days. Today was one of those special days.”
Also, defending NCAA individual champion Thomas Pieters of Illinois shot a second-straight 68 to move into the top 10 at 4 under. Pieters made five birdies Wednesday, but did bogey No. 6 and double-bogey the 523-yard, par-4 No. 9 hole.
The Illini are in position to make match play at 3-under 557.
• • •
SNAKES ON A FAIRWAY: A 5-foot snake delayed play at the NCAAs for a few minutes on the 11th fairway Wednesday, about 120 yards from the green. The group was Saint Mary's Jonathan De los Reyes', South Carolina’s Matthew NeSmith and Texas A&M’s Greg Yates.