Chris DeForest posted the best round of the day with an even par 72.
April 30, 2011
West Lafayette, Ind. -
After Friday morning's first round at the Big Ten Championship, Illini junior Luke Guthrie stood seven shots out of the lead and Illinois five strokes back as a team. Some 36 holes later, Guthrie leads by one stroke in the individual race while the Illini lead by 15 strokes with one round remaining at the Big Ten Championship.
Illinois will be gunning for its third straight Big Ten Championship, looking to pull off that feat for just the seventh time in the history of the event and the first since Northwestern pulled the trick from 1999-2001. Guthrie, meanwhile, is in position to possibly become the Illini's first Big Ten medalist since Larry Nuger won the title on the same Kampen Course at Purdue in 1999.
Saturday greeted teams with overcast conditions and sustained winds at 20-plus miles per hour. Guthrie and the Illini savored the challenge.
"We're a blue collar team who likes to grind it out," Guthrie said afterward. "This is a tough course even when the winds aren't blowing like this, but the conditions really fit our team well."
Senior Chris DeForest is looking to finish in the top 10 at the Big Ten for the fourth straight season, but the Cottekill, N.Y., entered the third round in a tie for 27th and the fifth Illini in the standings, meaning he was the first Illinois player to tee off Saturday morning.
DeForest proceeded to set the tone early in his round, getting to three-under par through 13 holes before finishing with an even par 72 following Kampen's tricky ending holes. That turned out to be the best round of the day and propelled DeForest into a tie for sixth at +6.
"Chris got us going for sure, then some of the rest of the guys followed suit," Illinois head coach Mike Small said.
By the time, Guthrie started his round, the Illinois lead over second-place Iowa had risen from the five strokes at the beginning of the day to nine, finishing at a tournament-best 15 stroke lead.
Illinois had the best round as a team at +10 (298) giving the Illini a +15 total through 54 holes while Iowa was +20 during the day to stand at +30 heading into Sunday. Northwestern and Indiana are tied for third at +34
Guthrie trailed Iowa's Chris Brant by four strokes to start the day, and while the 20th ranked-player in the nation had just one birdie for his round, he for the most part stayed out of the same trouble that caught up to most of the players on the day. That included an impressive two-putt for par from the fringe of a narrow 18th green.
Guthrie is at +1 for the tournament, leading Brant, who shot a 79 in the third round, by one stroke. Indiana's David Erdy and Penn State's Jay Woodward are at +3 followed by Michigan State's Chris Mory, in fifth at +4.
Small also saw some growth in his young freshman Thomas Pieters, who had birdies to open and close his three-over par 75 round. Pieters is tied with DeForest for sixth at +6, giving Illinois four players in the top 10 with senior Scott Langley one stroke out of that status at +7, good for a tie for 13th. Sophomore Mason Jacobs is tied for 28th in the 55-man field at +12.
Although Illinois sits in the catbirds seat, the Illini only need to look to last year for motivation. In the 2010 Big Ten meet, Illinois led second-place Michigan by 12 strokes and third-place Iowa by 16, but had to hold on for a three-shot victory over the Hawkeyes.
"We need to come out and get so momentum in those first six holes," Guthrie said of what it will take for Illinois close out the title.
"We have to continue to know who we are," Small said. "We have to continue to stay in the present and keep our focus no matter what the conditions are tomorrow."