Scott Langley had just one bogey on his first round.
June 1, 2010
Ooltewah, Tenn. - Illinois junior Scott Langley has made a habit of coming out and making a strong statement at the national championship. As a freshman he shot 74 in round one on an extremely tough Birck Golf Complex Course and nearly made the final day at the NCAA Championship. As a sophomore, he stepped on the stage and sunk a long putt for birdie to cap a 69 and be the co-leader after 18 holes at Inverness. On Tuesday, Langley shot an opening round two-under par 70 to sit tied for 13th after day one at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn.
"I definitely get amped up to play nationals," Langley said. "I feel comfortable out here. Last year I didn't play bad the last two rounds, just not as strong as the first. Tomorrow I hope to improve on how I did last year after a solid first round."
Starting on the back nine, Langley made a long birdie putt to save par on the 10th, birdied the par-five 11th, and added another birdie on the par four second. He nearly avoided a blemish-free day by narrowly missing a par putt on No. 6 after hitting his approach into the long rough past the green.
"The course is challenging, but it reminds me a lot of the courses around St. Louis, so I kind of feel like I'm at home around here," said Langley, the Manchester, Mo., native. "It's got a good mix of some tough holes, but also some holes you can get after. I made some good putts for both par and birdie. I feel like I made four putts over 15 feet. That was key to keeping my round going. I gave myself a lot of good looks today as well."
"Scott came to play today," said Illinois head coach Mike Small "To make just one bogey on this golf course is a solid round."
Langley is two strokes off the lead in the 156-player field shared by Jesper Kennegard of Arizona State and Henrik Norlander of Augusta State at -4. Langley is tied with 11 other players in 13th behind a nine-way tie for second at -3.
Langley's round came on a day the Illini would like to forget as a team, however. Illinois finds itself in 30th in the 30-team NCAA field after posting a 16-over par 304.
"We haven't had a day like this in a long time, probably four years," Small said. "It's very unfortunate that it has to happen here. What's ironic is I thought we had a great practice round yesterday. The guys were hitting it well and playing loose and had a lot of confidence. Today we came out and everything went wrong on the first nine."
This isn't the first time this particular course has bitten college players. Even Tiger Woods, who won the NCAA title the last time it was contested at the Honors Course in 1996, shot 80 in his final round. For the record, though, Illinois junior Chris DeForest shot a four-over par 76 on the 7,395-yard par 72 layout on Tuesday. Senior Zach Barlow followed with a five-over par 77; sophomore Luke Guthrie scored an 81 and senior Matt Hoffman an 83.
Oklahoma State and Florida State share the team lead at -5. Oregon is third at -4 followed by Texas A&M (-3), Arizona State (-2) and Clemson (-2).
The Illini have two more rounds to dig themselves out of the hole. The goal coming in was to crack the top eight, which would qualify them for the eight-team match play for the national title. The cut off right now is at -1, a spot held by Augusta State and Florida. The good news is that after shooting +11 on the opening nine holes, which was holes 10-18, Illinois started to pull it together on the second nine. Langley shot -1. Guthrie rebounded to shoot even par, which included a birdie on nine. Barlow finished his round birdie-birdie to also shoot even on his second nine, while DeForest played the final six holes at -1. The Illini start with the front nine in round two on Wednesday with hopes of gaining some momentum to climb up the ladder.
Small remains optimistic by saying, "Do I think they can? Yes. Do I believe in my team? Yes. This is a hard game to protect your score, so we just have to play free and confident. It stings, but we are going to come back tomorrow and scratch and claw for every spot."