Matt Hoffman had three birdies in the final six holes to sit 12th heading into the final round.
April 26, 2008
East Lansing, Mich. -
Illinois, like many of the teams, had a tough day in round three of tbe Big Ten Championship. The Illini, who started the day three shots in the lead, ends Saturday in a second place after rallying late in the day. Individually, freshman Scott Langley remains in the hunt for the conference title. Langley shot a one-under par 71 on the 7,013-yard Forest Akers West Course in East, Lansing, Mich. He enters Sunday's final round in third at -4, two strokes out of the lead.
Illinois was one of seven teams to shoot above 300 in tough windy conditions. The Illini were +14 302 as a team in the third round and stand at +19 (883). Host and 25th ranked Michigan State shot two-under par 286 as a team and leads Illinois by 11 strokes heading into the final round. The Illini are one stroke ahead of third-place Minnesota (884) and two strokes in front fourth-place and 24th-ranked Indiana (885). Northwestern (893) rounds out the top five teams.
Langley had five birdies on the day, including in two of the last three holes, and shot 34 on the back nine. He is one of just five players under par for the tournament. Michigan State's Ryan Brehm had the second-best round of the day with a 69 to take over the lead at -6, one stroke ahead of Jorge Campillo (-5) of Indiana and two shots in front of Langley. Jack Newman of Michigan State is at -2 after firing a 70 while Bill Rankin of Michigan is fifth at -1.
"For Scott Langley to be in this position as a freshman is a testament to his resiliency," said Illinois head coach Mike Small. "He had some bad breaks around the green, and being in the lead group, had the TV cameras around him. But he didn't let that affect him and still took advantage of some birdie opportunities."
Illinois still has three players in the top-16 for the tournament. Sophomore Matt Hoffman is tied for 12th at +8 (224) after shooting 78 Saturday. Freshman Chris DeForest is tied for 16th at +9 (225) in the 55-man field after shooting a 77. Sophomore Zach Barlow had the second-best round for the Illini on the day with a four-over par 76 and is tied for 26th at +12. Junior Larry Blatt is 49th at +21.
The Illini held on to the lead through the first six holes, then fell as low as fourth before rebounding to second in the final three holes. Not only did Langley finish strong, but Hoffman had three birdies in the final six holes, DeForest finished birdie-birdie, and Barlow played the back nine at +1.
"We really struggled in the first 13 or 14 holes and fell fast," Small said. "The conditions were tough and the greens were fast. To their credit, our guys got it together in the last four or five holes and made a charge to stay in the hunt. Considering that four of five players have never played in the Big Ten Tournament, I was encouraged by how they regrouped."
The teams will once again play in groups of three Sunday with the Illini being paired with Michigan State and Minnesota. Illinois has placed in the top two three times under head Small and is seeking its first title since 1988.