Georgia surges on final day for Linger Longer win
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Alabama and Georgia sat in a tie for the lead after 36 holes of the Linger Longer Invitational in Greensboro, Ga. But it was Georgia that seized the lead on Sunday, separating itself from Alabama by 10 strokes for a convincing win.
Every team seemed to struggle with the par-72, 7,073-yard Great Waters Course at Reynolds Plantation on Sunday but Georgia. The Bulldogs finished at 27 under for the tournament and at 7 under in the final round. It was the only team to finish under par on Sunday.
"We got off to a fast start and made a few birdies early, which gave us the momentum," Georgia head coach Chris Haack said. "You realized early on that the weather conditions were a little bit tougher, the pin placements were a little bit tougher and I told them pretty quick, 'Hey, it's going to be a hard day out here. You've got to be patient and pick your spots.' Those guys did a really good job of picking their way around the golf course."
After winning its first five tournaments of the year, Alabama has finished on the outside looking in at three consecutive events.
Georgia, the No. 5 team in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, beat out six teams ranked in the top 50. No. 1 Alabama (17 under), No. 13 Oklahoma (3 over) and No. 22 Clemson (6 over) rounded out the top four. No. 36 Mercer and No. 39 Liberty tied for fifth at 10 over.
Georgia senior Michael Cromie and Alabama freshman Robby Shelton finished 54 holes tied for first at 9 under. Cromie defeated Shelton in a one-hole playoff.
"(Cromie) gave himself a lot of opportunities and he was able to convert and make a lot of good birdie putts," Haack said. "He's been playing really well and had a terrific fall, so I think he's been playing with a lot of confidence and finally feels like he really belongs. He was playing well enough to where he could contend, he needed to just put it all together and have a good putting week. That's what he did."
Three of the top four players on the leaderboard were Bulldogs with senior Joey Garber, No. 1 in the Golfweek rankings, and sophomore Lee McCoy tying for third at 6 under. McCoy and Cromie shared the top round of the day, carding 3-under 69s on Sunday.
Cromie started the tournament dubiously, going 4 over through the first seven holes after a double bogey on No. 5 and a pair of bogeys on seven and eight. But he bounced back in that round, playing the next 47 holes at 13 under and with only one bogey.
"I only hit one bad shot (in the first seven holes). I was playing fine ... I just put my head to the ground and got after it," Cromie said.
Cromie even finished up with a birdie at the par-5, 540-yard 18th hole to force the playoff. He hit a hybrid about 25 feet past the hole on his second shot and two-putted for the birdie.
On the playoff hole, Cromie used the same hybrid club to knock the ball just off the green. He chipped to within 5 feet for an easy birdie, taking the win over Shelton, who hit his greenside-bunker shot past the hole.
"I knew I had to take out the water short and put it long to try and give myself a chance to chip it close," Cromie said. "I was actually trying to hit it into the bunker because my bunker play has been really good this week. I had a good shot, but just missed it, which was actually better than in the bunker."
The win was the first for Georgia this spring. The team started the spring with a third-place finish at the Puerto Rico Classic and a sixth-place showing at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters.
"I think we're playing pretty well," Haack said. "This week it all fell together for us and right now the confidence level is pretty high."