September 9, 2012

’Horns on the move at Collegiate

The University of Texas golf team wasn’t exactly thrilled with its play in the first round of the Carpet Capital Collegiate tournament at The Farm on Friday.

Down by 15 strokes heading into Saturday’s second round after Georgia opened with a 278 behind a 7-under-par 65 from T.J. Mitchell, the Longhorns had a lot of ground to make up.

But shooting an incredible team total of 22-under-par in the second round is more that just an improvement of “leaps and bounds.”

It was an Olympic long jump.

Paced by South African freshman Brandon Stone’s course-record 9-under 63, the Longhorns went from tied for 11th after the first day to three-stroke leaders over the Bulldogs headed to today’s final round.

“We weren’t happy with the results on Friday,” said Stone, who broke the competitive course record by a stroke. “That was the biggest motivator for the whole team. We played well all the way around today. This is a great team, and they have been looking out for me as a freshman and it is a great bunch of guys.”

Stone needed little in the way of protection on Saturday. Instead, the course and the rest of the field were the ones in need of a bodyguard.

The Longhorns had the three best scores of the round with Jordan Speith — the low amateur at this year’s U.S. Open — shooting a 6-under 66 and Kramer Hickok finishing at 67. Johnathan Schnitzer had the other counting round for the Longhorns with a 2-under 70. As a team, Texas set the Carpet Capital Collegiate team record for a round with a 266 — 12-strokes better than Georgia’s opening round 278.

“Just unbelievable,” Georgia freshman golfer Lee McCoy said of the day on the course for the Longhorns. “There isn’t much you can do when a team is just so ‘on.’ You just have to give their guys the credit which is due.”

McCoy and the rest of the Bulldogs didn’t fold the tent. First-round individual leader T.J. Mitchell followed up his opening-round 65 with a 4-under 68, and McCoy was also under par on the round, following up his 68 with a 71. The Bulldogs shot a 284 for the day and are three shots back of the Longhorns. LSU, Alabama and Clemson are tied for third, 14 shots back of Texas.

The Longhorns obliterated the team-round record for the tournament by eight strokes. Tennessee and Georgia Tech had each shot 274 in previous tournaments. Four other golfers had shot rounds of 64 in past tournaments, including Wake Forest’s Kevin Kemp, Georgia Tech’s Troy Madison, North Carolina’s Pat Moore and Clemson’s Ben Martin.

Stone’s 63 came in a unique way as he was even par on the course’s par-5 holes.

“It sounds funny to say that I shot a 63 and didn’t have any birdies on the par 5s,” Stone said. “I guess that shows how well I played on the other holes to be level on the par 5s. I holed a lot of putts out there, and in order to shoot a low score you have to be putting well.”

Stone said he had just 24 putts on the round.

“We thought we would play better than we did on Friday for sure, but I had no idea we would all come together like we did today,” Texas coach John Fields said. “It was really fun to watch them get it rolling like that.”

The Longhorns are the defending national champions, and Stone has added to the talent level in Austin. He leads by a stroke over Mitchell and four strokes ahead of Speith. North Carolina’s Michael McGowan and North Florida’s MJ Maguire were tied for fourth at 6-under. McCoy and Alabama’s Bobby Wyatt were at 5-under, while Chattanooga’s Liam Johnston, Clemson’s Stephen Behr and Kennesaw State’s Ben Greene were tied for eighth at 4-under.

Chattanooga’s Steven Fox — who won the U.S. Amateur Championship early this summer and joined the rolls of past champions such as Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Bobby Jones — was tied for 26th after shooting a 74 on Saturday to finish the day at 1-over for the tournament.

“I haven’t been striking the ball well on either day,” said Fox, who has been in the limelight in recent weeks after his come-from-behind win over the last three holes to beat Michael Weaver at Cherry Hills in Colorado. “I haven’t bee able to practice as much as I wanted heading into the college season, but that is no excuse. I have just been trying to get my life back to normal.”

Texas, Georgia and LSU golfers will be paired together in today’s final round, teeing off beginning at 9:30 a.m.

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