The Yellow Jackets entered the day second behind Arizona State, which didn’t tee off until Wednesday’s afternoon session. It wasn’t until the Sun Devils were off the course at 7 p.m. that Georgia Tech knew it would enter the third and final day of stroke play at Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course as the leader.
The Yellow Jackets were at 12-under 548 through two rounds, followed closely by California (549), Texas (550) and Alabama (551). Arizona State struggled mightily on the back nine, lost 18 strokes from Wednesday and was seventh at 558.
Only the top eight teams advance to match play, which begins Friday.
Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler said his players started the round well, but everyone seemed to start strong Wednesday.
The key was finishing that way.
California made a quick race up the leaderboard behind the solid play of Max Homa and Joel Stalter.
Homa was hot for most of the round with birdies on five of the first seven holes he played. He made the turn at 5-under and, after birdies on 12, 13, and 15, sat at 8-under.
But that’s where Homa’s success ended. He bogeyed 16 and double-bogeyed 18 to finish the round at 5-under.
Brandon Hagy, who led California with a 4-under on Tuesday, didn’t play as well in the second round. He was 1-under at the turn, but after birdies on 10 and 12, he bogeyed three of his final five holes to stay at 1-under.
Heppler said what separated Georgia Tech from the other teams was the way the Yellow Jackets played holes 16-18.
“When I walked by the scoreboard on 13, we were at 12 (under),” Heppler said. “So, to play those last holes at even is really pretty good.”
Heppler continued to stress the advantage that his team’s playing so close to home, and specifically the players’ familiarity with Crabapple. And while he watched the scores other teams were putting up early, he didn’t worry much about it.
“I can’t throw and go to zone instead of man-to-man or triangle-and-two or something,” he said. “You’ve got to try and do what you’ve got to do. You can’t control them.”
The Yellow Jackets are set to tee off at just after 1 p.m today, with California and Texas.
Arizona State’s Jon Rahm remained the individual leader, and leads the contenders for the individual championship, which will be determined after today’s round.
He began the day at 9 under and birdied three of his first four holes, but as the afternoon heat set in, his play declined. Rahm double-bogeyed the part-4 ninth — a tough hole he had birdied a day earlier — and went on to add four bogeys on the back nine to finished at 2-over 72 for the day.
“It was a different day,” said Rahm, a freshman from Spain. “There were a lot of eyes on me (Wednesday) to see if I would shoot the same. I started playing pretty well, but then my driver didn’t work for me very well and I started missing fairways. And I couldn’t control the ball from the rough and I started making bogeys and bogeys and bogeys.”
Rahm said he lost some confidence, and getting that back will be a key to having a successful round today.
“I’m not going to think that I shot a 61-72,” he said. “I’m just going to think that I played two good rounds. I’m still in the lead. I’m conscious of that. (Today) is a new day.”
So far, Rahm’s Day 1 score is what’s allowed Arizona State to remain in contention for match play. The Sun Devils shot 8-over Wednesday and are just three shots ahead of ninth-place Central Florida.
Arizona State coach Tim Mickelson said his players weren’t used to teeing off in the afternoon, but they will have to get used to it with another late start today.
Still, Mickelson isn’t complaining.
“Even though we had the lead (Tuesday), that isn’t the important thing,” he said. “The important thing is to be inside that cut line after 54. If we put in one good round (today), we are going to be there.”
Also in contention for the individual title with Rahm are Central Florida’s Greg Eason and Arkansas’ Nicolas Echavarria, who are tied at 6-under 134. Georgia Tech’s Ollie Schniederjans, the former Harrison High School star, is among five players tied two strokes back, while another Yellow Jacket, ACC champion Anders Albertson, sits three strokes behind the leader.