OOLTEWAH, Tenn. — Taylor Floyd admits he has struggled to finish rounds at recent tournaments.
But the Augusta State sophomore built up enough of a cushion to survive three bogeys in his final five holes of the first round of the NCAA Golf Championships at The Honors Course just outside of Chattanooga on Tuesday. The former FPD standout finished with a round of 1-over-par 73 to put himself in a tie for 52nd place. He stands five shots back of co-leaders Jesper Kennegard of Arizona State and Jaguars teammate Henrik Norlander.
“The good thing about team golf is that you can treat every day as a new day,” Floyd said. “As opposed to individual tournaments, you always kind of wondering where you are. Not really (thinking about individual place).”
Most important to Floyd, however, was helping the Jaguars finish tied for seventh for the day at 1 under. They are four shots behind co-leaders Florida State and Oklahoma State. The top eight teams through three rounds advance to match play on Friday. The round was the best for Augusta State since the 2002 championships.
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Augusta State moved to 6 under at one point in the round and stayed close to the top of the leaderboard before a rough few final holes brought the Jaguars back some shots. Augusta State players posted six bogeys during the final three holes of the round.
Floyd caught fire on the back nine (Augusta State started on No. 10) by birdieing the first hole. He then made a 35-footer for eagle on No. 2 to move to 2 under for his round. It was one of just five eagles all day. At the time, Floyd sat in the top 10 overall. He just missed a short birdie putt on No. 3.
Floyd bogeyed No. 5, and then he ran into more trouble on Nos. 7 and 8. He hit a flier on the hole and flew the green on No. 7, hitting his 7-iron well more than 200 yards. He said that distance is usually a solid 6-iron, but he knew he would catch a flier so he clubbed down and still hit it long. Floyd said he hit a terrible tee shot and a terrible chip on No. 8 for a bogey, and he finished his second nine at even par.
“I don’t really know what it is,” Floyd said. “It’s not like I’m getting extra nervous down the stretch. It just seems like these last couple holes are coming up to grab me.”
Jaguars head coach Josh Gregory said some of his players are playing with a little added pressure. Three of the five players are making their NCAA championships debut, and the other two played on the 2008 team whose NCAA appearance was a bit of a surprise after being ranked in the 40s for heading into the regionals. This Augusta State team is ranked in the top 10 of all three national polls, including No. 5 in Golfweek’s poll.
“(Taylor) is just trying too hard,” Gregory said. “I think he’s one that beats himself up a little too hard. When he can relax and have fun, he can be as good as anybody.”
Georgia Tech finished in the top third of the field at 2 over.
The Yellow Jackets are three shots behind Augusta State and Florida for eighth place. Junior Paul Haley shot 70 on Tuesday to stay within two shots of first place. John Tyler Griffin was a shot back at 1 under, and Chesson Hadley shot even par.
Georgia Southern is at 9 over for the tournament. The Eagles were led by Spencer Fulford’s 71.
All but one of the teams that went off in the morning posted rounds of over par. Only Arizona State stayed under par. Atlantic Sun member North Florida had one of the better rounds of the morning, finishing in a tie for 12th at 4 over.