Texas' Scottie Scheffler hits from the 18th tee box during the NCAA men's golf regional at UT Golf Club, Monday, May 15, 2017. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Golf

Scheffler, Ghim pace Texas to first-round lead at NCAA golf regional

Posted May 15th, 2017

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When Scottie Scheffler pulled his tee shot on the seventh hole Monday, he figured the ball was headed for a hazard, a costly development that would stall his momentum.

Instead, he received a nice bounce. Then Scheffler, pairing skill with that good fortune, hit a wedge to within a foot of the hole, made his third birdie and went on to shoot a 5-under par 66 to take the opening round lead of the NCAA tournament’s Austin Regional at UT Golf Club.

“That seventh hole was the turning point,” Scheffler, a junior, said. The first-round 66 tied Scheffler’s best round of the season.

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Fellow Longhorn Doug Ghim is among four players tied for second, two shots back at 3-under in the 54-hole event.

A third Longhorn, Gavin Hall, is in a four-way tie for sixth at 2-under. Also in that group at 2-under is Wake Forest’s Will Zalatoris, the top player in this regional with a No. 4 national computer ranking, according to golfstat.com.

Texas’ Doug Ghim hits from the 18th tee box during the NCAA men’s golf regional at UT Golf Club, Monday, May 15, 2017. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Those three paced Texas, seeded third in the region, to the team lead at 7-under, five strokes better than Ole Miss. Oklahoma State, the No. 1 seed in the 14-team region, is in third place at 3-over. Wake Forest, the region’s No. 2 seed, is 17 shots back at plus-10. Only Zalatoris among Wake Forest players shot better than a 74.

Each team has five golfers, with the best four scores counting each day.

Five schools from the region will advance to the 30-team NCAA Championship, which will be held May 26-31 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Gove Ill.

Texas’ Gavin Hall hits from the 17th fairway during the NCAA men’s golf regional at UT Golf Club, Monday, May 15, 2017. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Texas, the NCAA runner-up in 2016, has won its last two events, the UT Longhorn Shootout and the Big 12 championship.

“I think our guys feel a little bit of momentum coming off the conference championship,” Texas coach John Fields said. “There were five top-15 teams at the Big 12 this year. To come out on top was definitely a motivator.”

Scheffler has shot par or better in 20 of his 31 his rounds this season. He made six birdies and a bogey Monday.

Ghim, a junior, grabbed his share of second place with a 4-foot birdie putt on 18. He made a much longer birdie putt – 30 feet – on the second hole.

“I just played solid,” Ghim said.

Hall, a senior, was particularly pleased with the recovery he made after an errant tee shot at the par-4 sixth stopped next to the cart path.

Standing on the path, Hall hit a 3-iron 220 yards and made a 10-foot birdie.

Though Texas won the Longhorn Shootout and leads the Austin Regional, Fields said his team does not necessarily have a home-course advantage.

“It’s so unusual for us to play on our home golf course in a competitive situation, so it’s a little bit more pressure,” Fields said. “In the meantime, the course knowledge is significant. Those two things balance out.”

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