Seniors help Texas book ticket to NCAA match play

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Seniors help Texas book ticket to NCAA match play

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Seniors help Texas book ticket to NCAA match play

STILLWATER, Okla. – Doug Ghim and Scottie Scheffler have had illustrious careers at the University of Texas.

The senior duo has accounted for a combined 42 top-10s, including seven wins and a pair of top-6s this week at the NCAA Championship. Scheffler won the Phil Mickelson Award as the nation’s top freshman in 2015 and Ghim collected Big 12 Player of the Year honors last season before winning the Hogan Award this year.

And they can still add an NCAA team title.

Ghim and Scheffler each made closing birdies Monday on Karsten Creek’s ninth hole that proved to be the difference for the Longhorns, who avoided a playoff for the final match-play berth by two shots. Texas will be the seventh seed for match play, which begins Tuesday, and will face second-seeded Duke in the quarterfinals.

On a day when as many as nine teams found themselves within a shot of the cut line, Texas climbed four spots on the leaderboard. With Scheffler and Ghim through 17 holes, the Longhorns were tied with Vanderbilt and Alabama for sixth. The Commodores were in the house and the Tide were grouped with Texas.

Vanderbilt senior Theo Humphrey had eagled the par-5 18th to get his team to 17 over, but a water ball off the tee and closing bogey by sophomore John Augenstein left the Commodores at 18 over.

That meant that unless Alabama or Texas A&M, also in Texas’ group, faltered late, the Longhorns needed to finish better than 18 over to avoid a playoff. That’s when Scheffler drained a right-to-left-breaking birdie putt from about 20 feet at the ninth to give his team a cushion.

“It was a huge moment,” Scheffler said. “I was able to check the leaderboard and saw that we were tied for eighth, and I knew we needed that putt at least.”

Ghim, who was watching from the fairway, then wedged to about the same distance before making a lightning-quick birdie putt of his own to seal Texas’ spot in match play. Ghim shot even-par 72 to finish at 6 under, a spot out of the individual playoff, while Scheffler shot 73 to finish in sixth at 4 under.

Sophomore Spencer Soosman also contributed a final-round 72 to help Texas.

“This is a team effort,” Ghim said. “I’d rather now win and make it to match play with my team than win and not make it. I’m so excited to be with those guys tomorrow, battling.”

Ghim and Scheffler each will be playing in NCAA match play for the second time. Two years ago at Eugene Country Club, they went a combined 5-1 in the format with Ghim going 3-0. Scheffler beat NCAA individual champion Aaron Wise in the final, but Oregon clipped Texas, 3-2, as Sulman Raza beat Taylor Funk in extra holes. (The Longhorns, of course, had to forfeit a match after Beau Hossler injured his shoulder in the semifinals.)

Texas, led by its two seniors, will be at full strength this time around.

“We were on the other side of it at Eugene,” Ghim said. “We felt like we were the No. 1 team and we needed to win it. This year, it doesn’t seem like many people thought we were a favorite. … To be in match play, we feel like we have something to prove and we feel good about our chances.”

Said Texas head coach John Fields: “We’re just thankful to be in this position at this point, and we want to go take advantage of it now.”

Alabama, which got late birdies from its two seniors (Jonathan Hardee and Lee Hodges), earned the sixth seed and will play Texas Tech in the quarterfinals. Oklahoma State will be the top seed and play Texas A&M, which got a final-hole birdie from senior Andrew Paysse to finish eighth at 17 over.

Oklahoma and Auburn will meet in the quarterfinals, as well. The Sooners, as the fourth seed, won’t face their rival Cowboys in the final. Instead, if both teams win Tuesday morning, they will meet in the semifinals Tuesday afternoon.

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