Men's Golf moves into match play with field-best round
May 31, 2012
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – It’s easy to get lost at Riviera Country Club, among the emerald green fairways and craggy eucalyptus trees, as the cool ocean breeze works its way in, through and around every dogleg.
And so stood Dylan Frittelli, on the second green – his 11th hole of the day – with the afternoon sun fading, but still hours from dipping into the Pacific Ocean. Yet Frittelli’s focus was on nothing but a single blade of grass and the putter that rested between his palms.
His ball hung awkwardly against the green and fringe, forcing a somewhat unnatural putting stroke, but Frittelli struck it cleanly and his birdie try left him just a few feet for par, which he made.
Frittelli’s concentrated vision resembled the top-seeded Texas Longhorns on Thursday afternoon, as they surged up to third place with an even-par round to vault UT into the match play portion of the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship.
Only the top eight teams after 54 holes of stroke play advance, and the Longhorns began the day one stroke off the cut line. This marks UT’s first appearance in the match play round since the format began in 2009.
“Obviously, there was a lot of pressure on us. We knew we had to have a good round to make it into match play,” Frittelli said. “The guys excelled when the pressure was on.”
UT’s even-par 284 total is the best team round of the tournament, matched only by San Diego State also on Thursday.
“I felt great about our guys today, especially coming in,” head coach John Fields said. “They really put it together there at the end and did what we thought they could do.”
Indeed, the Longhorns made their mark down the stretch. Cody Gribble birdied the last hole, while Julio Vegas carded birdies on two of his final four holes. Jordan Spieth carded a 2-under 69 for UT’s lowest round of the day, and Spieth also rallied toward the clubhouse with two birdies in his final four holes.
“I was a little anxious, a little antsy because we dug ourselves such a hole,” Spieth said. “But we got off to a good start and played consistent golf, which is all we needed to do. “
The Longhorns meet Washington, which finished three strokes behind UT in sixth place, in Friday’s first round of match play.
This format will test players’ patience as much as their precision, but the Longhorns have experience and success to rely on. For instance, Spieth won two U.S. Junior Amateur Championships in match play, and the Longhorns needed a playoff to win the Augusta State Invitational in early April.
UT’s best preparation, however, might just be the steadiness that carried them up the leaderboard on Thursday.
“We’re just going to try and ride this momentum,” Spieth said.