Albertson powers host Georgia Tech into lead after Day 2 of NCAA tournament
MILTON, Ga. -- Paced by a 3-under-par 67 from Anders Albertson, Georgia Tech matched its opening round of 6-under-par 274 Wednesday and captured the lead after two rounds of the NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship.
Ollie Schniederjans shot a 2-under-par 68, Seth Reeves added a consecutive 1-under 69 and freshman Shun Yat Hak posted an even-par 70, helping the Yellow Jackets ascend to the lead after the morning wave of teams completed their rounds on the 7,319-yard, par 72 Capital City Club Crabapple Course.
Tech completed 36 holes at 12-under-par 548, one shot clear of top-ranked California (11-under 549), which reached 19-under with a blistering front-nine performance before settling back to an 8-under-par round of 272. Texas turned in the best score of the morning with as 9-under 271 and wound up in third place after two rounds at 10-under 550. No. 2 Alabama, after a 4-under round of 276, is in fourth place at 551 (-9).
Arkansas surged with a 271 Wednesday, matching Texas, and moved into a fifth-place tie with Illinois (+1 for the round) at 3-under-par 557.
First-round leader Arizona State started its round hot and regained the lead briefly, rising to 14-under-par at one point in its front nine, but the Sun Devils lost 12 shots after that and fell back to seventh place at 2-under 558. Rounding out the top 10 were Texas A&M (E), UCF (+1) and Oklahoma (+2). The Golden Knights moved into contention for a match play spot by shooting 6-under for the day.
"They played well [on Wednesday]. They got off and played two, three, four, five and six really well," Tech coach Bruce Heppler said. "There are stretches in here where there are five or six that you have to get in and hang on. I was really pleased with how we played the last four holes. Sixteen was into the wind, 12 and 18 were into the wind. When I walked by the scoreboard I guess on 13, we were at 12 so to play those eight under was really pretty good.
"We're playing five guys who have never played in the national tournament before. I think that familiarity helps; that they know what's out there. They know the shots that are there. It's not like they're uncomfortable. There's no question that it's helped a lot."
Tech, bidding to qualify for the match play portion of the tournament for the third time in five years, will be paired with Cal and Texas for the final round of stroke play Thursday. The top eight teams in team score following 54 holes of stroke play will advance to the match play portion of the NCAA Championship, which begins Friday.
Schniederjans, who opened the tournament with four birdies en route to a 67 Tuesday, is tied for fourth place in the medal race with a 5-under-par total of 135. He is two shots back of first-round leader Jon Rahm of Arizona State, who followed his course-record 61 Tuesday with a 72 Wednesday, leaving him with a 7-under-par total of 133. Arkansas' Nicolas Echevarria bolted into second place with a 6-under-par 64 Wednesday, while UCF's Greg Eason shot 66 and are tied for second at 134 (-6).
The top 15 players are within two shots of each other. The individual NCAA champion will be crowned after 54 holes are completed Thursday.
"Fourteen through 18 were playing really hard," Schniederjans said. "It was awesome to play one under on the last four holes. On 15 you have to strike an iron, then have a good two-putt. Sixteen is ridiculous. On 17 it's just that the pin is really hard. I just hit a good drive, then a sweet shot. Eighteen is always a tough hole. We're just going to have to come out and make birdies and shoot well. Hopefully, we'll have a nice cushion for those four holes left."
Albertson is in a tie for ninth place at 4-under 136. The ACC Champion opened the tournament with a 69 and birdied five of his first eight holes Wednesday before leveling off. Reeves, who tied for second place in the PING/Golfweek Preview Invitational on this course in the fall against a loaded field (13 of 15 teams in that tournament are in the field this week), is tied for 24th place at 2-under 138.
In the four years the NCAA has used the match play format to decide its men's Division I champion, Georgia Tech has qualified for match play twice -- in 2011 at the Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn., and in 2012 at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla. The Yellow Jackets finished third and second, respectively, in the stroke play portion of those championships. Tech tied for 10th in 2009 at Inverness in Toledo, Ohio.