Georgia opens play in the NCAA men‚Äôs golf championships today carrying plenty of momentum coming off a 13-shot margin of victory in winning its regional.
The Bulldogs got a sneak peek with two rounds at Prairie Dunes County Club in Hutchinson, Kan., site of the championships today through Wednesday, before heading to San Antonio.
‚ÄúI think it sets up really well for us compared to Crabapple last year,‚Äù said Lee McCoy of the NCAAs last year at the Capital City Club in Milton, where the Bulldogs finished 19th. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre a lot better at positioning the golf ball where we want. I think we have a really good shotmakers on the team and only have one real bomber in the lineup. I think we have a real good shot out there.‚Äù
Georgia is the No. 6 seed behind No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 3 Stanford, No. 4 Georgia Tech and No. 5 California.
‚ÄúMy feeling with the top six teams, why not us?‚Äù Georgia coach Chris Haack said. ‚ÄúI think we‚Äôre just as good as the rest of them. That‚Äôs why you play. That‚Äôs why you tee it up and play because we think we‚Äôve got as good a chance as anybody.‚Äù
Georgia won NCAA titles under Haack in 2005 and 1999 and was runner-up in 2007 and 2011.
Georgia‚Äôs lineup includes three seniors ‚Äî Joey Garber, Keith Mitchell and Michael Cromie.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôve been around for a long time and they‚Äôve been at a lot of golf tournaments and they‚Äôve hit a lot of balls,‚Äù Haack said. ‚ÄúThey kind of know what‚Äôs at stake so it‚Äôs nothing you‚Äôve really got to really help them with.‚Äù
McCoy, a sophomore from Clarkesville, and Greyson Sigg, a freshman from Augusta, complete the lineup.
Garber, a Michigan transfer, is finishing his college career with a flourish with his ever-growing beard. He has a team best 70.66 scoring average and is playing as well as anybody in the country, Haack said.
Garber‚Äôs gone seven months since shaving after winning a tournament in October on Kiawah, S.C.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs kind of a mojo thing,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúI can‚Äôt shave it now.‚Äù
Team stroke play will be held the first three days. The top eight teams after 54 holes move on to match play.
The Golf Channel will begin televising the event on Monday when the top 40 golfers and ties will complete the 72-hole individual tournament for medial honors and it will also show the match play quarterfinals and semifinals on Tuesday and the championship match on Wednesday.
‚ÄúHopefully we can get some good rounds in stroke play and everybody can feel pretty confident in their games,‚Äù Lee McCoy said. ‚ÄúI think we can definitely get it done.‚Äù
Georgia‚Äôs golf program already has received plenty of national attention this year with five different former Bulldogs winning on the PGA Tour.
Haack said Prairie Dunes has ‚Äúreally tricky greens and the wind constantly blows out there in Kansas so it really makes you have to think your way around the golf course,‚Äù which should suit his team.
Georgia will be playing with California and rival Georgia Tech in the first two rounds.
‚ÄúIt doesn‚Äôt really matter to us,‚Äù Haack said. ‚ÄúIf they hit the ball in the weeds, we probably won‚Äôt go look for it.‚Äù
He was laughing.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm just kidding, obviously,‚Äù he said.
Follow Marc online at twitter.com/marcweiszer.