May 29, 2009

Courtesy of Georgia Athletics

TOLEDO, Ohio -- The No. 1-ranked Georgia men's golf team advanced to the match play portion of the NCAA Championship on Thursday at the Inverness Club.

The Bulldogs made things interesting, shooting their highest round of the tournament at 12-over 296 for a three-day figure of 17-over 869. With the low eight teams moving on to match play in the new NCAA format, Georgia had to sweat things out for a couple of hours before learning it had finished in a tie for seventh place.

"It was a stressful day," Georgia coach Chris Haack said. "We were playing a difficult golf course, we weren't playing well and we knew about the cut, so it was pretty stressful. As far as the excitement level, having so many teams playing for the top eight created plenty of that."

By virtue of a tiebreaker with Texas A&M, the other seventh-place team, the Bulldogs are the No. 8 seed for the match play portion. Georgia will face top-seeded Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals on Friday, setting up a match between the Nos. 1 and 2 squads in the country. The first team to clinch three out of five matches will move onto the semifinals.

"We're looking forward to playing those guys," Haack said. "I really like the idea of playing them in the first round. We knew we might have to play them anyway, so let's do it right out of the gate. Our guys will really have to be focused. It's a brand-new tournament, and there are eight teams capable of walking out of here with the trophy."

"We are excited about the chance to open against Oklahoma State," Georgia senior Brian Harman said. "We have all the respect in the world for them, and I am sure they feel the same way about us. It should be a heck of a match."

Oklahoma State, Georgia and Texas A&M actually were grouped together for the final round as they entered the day in the top three positions. The Cowboys wound up in the top spot with a score of 3-under 849, including a 3-under 281 on Thursday.

Harman paced the Bulldogs on Thursday with his third straight round of even-par 71, followed by senior Adam Mitchell, junior Hudson Swafford and sophomore Russell Henley all at 4-over 75. Sophomore Harris English had the Bulldogs' non-counting score of 5-over 76.

Harman and Henley tied for ninth place at even-par 213, with North Carolina State's Matt Hill taking NCAA medalist honors at 6-under 207. English finished at 10-over 223, Swafford came in at 13-over 226 and Mitchell wound up at 14-over 227.

The other quarterfinal match-ups have No. 2 seed Arizona State against No. 7 Texas A&M, No. 3 Southern Cal against No. 6 Michigan and No. 4 Arkansas against No. 5 Washington. The Georgia-Oklahoma State winner will face the Arizona State-Texas A&M winner in the semifinals, also slated for Friday.