May 29, 2012
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. --- Led by veteran T.J. Mitchell, the Georgia men's golf team posted an 11-over-par 295 in the first round of the NCAA Championships on Tuesday at The Riviera Club.
All 30 teams in the field will play 54 holes, with the top eight advancing to match play beginning on Friday. The Bulldogs stand 15th in the tightly bunched team race that has Alabama in first place at 1-over 285, two teams at 4-over, two teams at 5-over and five teams at 6-over. The 6-over squads occupy what would be the eighth spot, and the 20th-seeded Bulldogs trail them by just five shots.
Mitchell, the only Bulldog back from last year's NCAA finalist squad, paced Georgia on Tuesday with an even-par 71. The junior is 13th in the individual standings, with UCLA's Anton Arboleda leading at 4-under 67. Sophomore Keith Mitchell added a 2-over 73, while freshman Nicholas Reach signed for a 3-over 74, and sophomores Joey Garber and Brian Carter each had a 6-over 77.
"We had our chances," Georgia coach Chris Haack said. "We played well in spurts, but we gave away a few at the beginning and a few at the end. We need to play better the next two rounds, and we'll see what happens. During the practice round, everybody hit it well. And they're all playing with confidence because I've seen it. We've just got to translate that into better scores This is a golf course that's known worldwide for being a great track, and you'd better respect it. You just can't give away shots. But the guys are learning. They're young and they're getting better."
"We kind of lost a few shots coming in, which is crucial because every shot counts," T.J. Mitchell said. "We've talked about that all year, making every shot count, especially at the Regionals and now at the NCAAs. We're in a good spot. We can get back in it by playing well the next two days. We seemed to settle in around the middle part of the course, and we need to remember that for Wednesday. We can't compound mistakes with other mistakes. We've got to stay in the present and try to have fun."
The Bulldogs will tee off in 10-minute increments between 3:40 and 4:20 EST in the second round on Wednesday. Thursday's third-round tee times will be determined by the 36-hole scores. Live results and pairings can be found at NCAA.com.
"If we can follow up with two good rounds, I think we'll be fine," Keith Mitchell said. "We need to get off to a great start, and if we're confident on the greens and stay with it, some putts will finally drop. It's a privilege to be out here, to play such a great course against such great competition. If we take it in and appreciate the opportunity we have, it will be a fun time."