June 1, 2010
Ooltewah, Tenn. – Taking advantage of a hot six-hole stretch by junior Paul Haley on the front nine, Georgia Tech rallied to play its incoming side and shot 2-over 290 Tuesday in the first round of the NCAA Division I Golf Championship at The Honors Course.
The Yellow Jackets are tied for 10th place with Texas after 18 holes, seven shots out of the lead and three strokes behind Florida and Augusta State, who shot 1-under 287 Tuesday and are tied for seventh. The field will be cut to the top eight teams following Thursday’s third round, and those eight teams will compete at match play for the national championship.
After play finished Tuesday, the top eight teams are within four shots of each other, and 11 of the 30 teams are within seven shots of the lead. Oklahoma State, which won the NCAA Southeast Regional held in Alpharetta, Ga., two weeks ago, and Florida State four themselves atop the leaderboard after the first round at 5-under-par 283, a course record. Top-seeded Oregon is in second place at 4-under 284, followed by Texas A&M (3-under 285), Arizona State and Clemson (each at 2-under 286). Washington (1-over 289) is in ninth place.
On a day which saw Clemson boost its score to 9-under-par before falling back, Tech went the opposite direction, falling to 6-over-par at one point in its round before coming back. Most of that deficit came at the buzz saw that was the 475-yard, par 4 15th, which requires a long tee shot over water. The Atlantic Coast Conference champions collectively played that hole eight shots over par, and they were not alone. That hole proved to be the toughest across the board Tuesday, playing to an average of 0.46 strokes over par for the 156 players.
But Tech played the rest of the course five shots under par, and covered the front nine (the Jackets’ second nine for this round) in 3-under-par. Haley, after his double-bogey at 15, played the last 12 holes in 4-under-par, including a six-hole stretch on the front in which he ran off four birdies.
Griffin, 2-over at the turn, was equally impressive on the front nine, posting three birdies without a bogey to shoot 71.
“We got off to a bad start and fought back pretty well,” said head coach Bruce Heppler. “We made one little mistake here at the end, but overall I am very pleased. The course was terrific and was a great test. You have to play every hole. There are no holes that you can take off and I think the scores show that.”
Haley is in a large group of players tied for 13th place individually, four shots off the lead established by Jesper Kennegard of Arizona State and Henrik Norlander of Augusta State, who each shot 68. Griffin, a junior from Wilson, N.C., is in another large group tied for 25th place. After play finished Tuesday, 64 players in the 156-man field are within five shots of the lead.
“I got off to kind of a shaky start during the first five or six holes,” said Haley, a junior from Dallas, Texas, who has played his best golf for Tech over the past four events this spring. “I had some good putts for par and got up and down a couple of times. I hit it in the water on 15 and made an eight footer for double bogey. I birdied 16 to get back. [The Honors Course] is incredible. We have played it a couple of times. The greens were pretty receptive today. This golf course is fantastic. Fairways and everything are in such great shape.”
Haley and Griffin were among 51 players who matched or broke par on The Honors Course Tuesday. In 1996, the only other time the NCAA Championship has been held at The Honors Course, the venue yielded only 44 scores of par or better in 72 holes. The course surrendered just one team round under par in 1996. Tuesday, on a course measuring 356 yards longer, eight teams broke par.
Senior Chesson Hadley, the ACC individual champion, played the course in even-par 70 for the Jackets Tuesday, while sophomore James White shot a 75 that included a triple-bogey at the last when he dumped his approach shot in a pond fronting the green.
Of the 15 teams who teed off in the afternoon wave, seven broke par. Of the morning 15 teams, only Arizona State (2-under) did so. The Yellow Jackets will be part of Wednesday’s morning wave, beginning its round at 8:35 a.m. paired again with Florida and UNLV.