Pieters (-7) Leads Field at Jack Nicklaus Invitational
Oct. 10, 2011
DUBLIN, Ohio. - Sophomore Thomas Pieters picked up right where he left off from last week, as the Nijlen, Belgium, native fired an opening round 66 and followed it up with a 71 to lead the Jack Nicklaus Invitational by two strokes through 36 holes at seven-under. Senior Luke Guthrie joined Pieters in the top five on the leaderboard, sitting in a tie for fourth at three-under after rounds of 71 and 70. The duo led No. 16 Illinois to scores of 288 (E) and 300 (+12) on day one, placing the team in a tie for fifth at 588 (+12) with No. 22 LSU in a loaded 12-team field.
"Thomas was ready to play from the get go today," head coach Mike Small said. "He has worked hard on his game all fall and is really in a nice groove. He played solid golf and was a big key to us having a decent day. He had an impressive round to start with a 66 on a traditionally difficult course, and then he fought back from a double bogey in the second round to get under par again. He was in a nice rhythm all day, which was good to see."
After turning in a career-low score of 65 (-6) in the final round of last week's D.A. Weibring Invitational, Pieters matched that mark to start the tournament on Monday with a bogey-free round, which included six birdies at the par-72, 7,352-yard Muirfield Village Golf Club. An eagle on the par-5 15th hole highlighted his second round, which saw Pieters bounce back from a double-bogey and shoot under-par again. Texas' Jordan Spieth and Arkansas' Ethan Tracy are tied for second at five-under.
Guthrie carded five birdies in the morning and six birdies in the afternoon to offset his big number from each round and record his fifth-straight score under-par. He is just four shots back of his teammate and tied with TCU's Julian Brun at 141 (-3).
"Luke played well today," Small said. "He fought off a triple bogey and still shot two-under in that second round. He is so resilient and such a tough kid that if he can start eliminating those big numbers, he can play some even better golf."
The remainder of the Illini lineup struggled on day one with the next low round by an Illini at 75 from junior Mason Jacobs. Illinois sits two shots back of UCLA (586) in fourth place while host Ohio State (574) is in first at two-under, just one stroke ahead Kent State and Texas, who are tied for second at 575.
"Our team has built our past success on depth, so it will take a team effort tomorrow to do that," Small said. "We have two guys near the top and need to support them better with help from the rest of the team."
The final round will tee off on Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. ET. Live scoring will be available on golfstat.com while full results and a recap of the tournament can be found on fightingillini.com.
Jack Nicklaus Invitational Results after 36 Holes