June 2, 2011
STILLWATER, Okla. --- The Georgia men's golf team accomplished its first goal on Thursday in the stroke play portion of the NCAA Championships. The quest for the second goal begins on Friday.
Needing a top-8 effort to advance to match play, the 12th-seeded Bulldogs finished fifth with a total of 20-over-par 884. Georgia capped stroke play with a final-round 17-over 305, its highest figure of the three-day event at at Karsten Creek Golf Club.
"It was a struggle today," Georgia coach Chris Haack said. "It's just a tough golf course, and it was one of those days where you try to hold on and survive. I was proud of the guys for staying with it. Nobody got down and they fought through it, so it turned out OK."
With the fifth-place finish, Georgia advanced to match play where it will play fourth-place Illinois. The Bulldogs and the Illini will tee off on Friday at 11:45 a.m. The other pairings for match play are No. 1 UCLA vs. No. 8 Duke, No. 2 Georgia Tech vs. No. 7 Augusta State and No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 6 Ohio State. The winners will advance to Saturday, and the team champion will be crowned on Sunday.
Illinois and Oklahoma State finished tied for third in stroke play, and the Cowboys wound up No. 3 and the Illini No. 4 in the bracket based on the cumulative drop score (plus-16 for Oklahoma State, plus-26 for Illinois).
"Now, anything goes," Haack said. "It doesn't matter who you play; you just have to get ready and go hit them. Every team that made it to match play is good. Any team we play from here on out is going to be a formidable opponent. I just hope we can bring our best stuff."
Sophomore T.J. Mitchell paced the Bulldogs on Thursday with a 3-over 75. Senior Harris English and sophomore Bryden Macpherson each added a 4-over 76, while senior Hudson Swafford signed for a 6-over 78 and senior Russell Henley had a 7-over 79.
English finished 10th in the individual standings with a total of 1-over 217. Medalist honors went to LSU's John Peterson at 5-under 211. Swafford wound up at 7-over 223, followed by Henley at 11-over 227, Macpherson at 13-over 229 and Mitchell at 14-over 230.
Georgia has logged just two match play rounds at the NCAAs, both coming in 2009 at Inverness Club in Ohio. The Bulldogs dispatched Oklahoma State in a memorable first-round pairing, then lost to Arkansas in the second round. English, Henley and Swafford all were in the lineup for Georgia that season.
Asked if he likes his team in the match play format: "I like my team in anything, so yeah. Why not us?"