Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
John Fox studies the green on the first hole. Fox is in second place and one stroke off the lead.
Ellis leads as Spirit heads into final round
By Michael Wetzel
Before he teed off Saturday, Kyle Ellis knew the wet playing conditions would make the 7,111-yard Burningtree Country Club golf course play longer.
The second-round leader of the 40th annual Daikin America Spirit of America golf tournament expected scores to be higher, but he had the same target objective for himself — something in the 60s.
The 23-year-old Ole Miss senior comes into Sunday’s final round as a one-stroke leader after firing a 1-under 70 Saturday. The final round is slated to begin at 8 a.m.
Not shooting in the 60s Saturday is about the only thing the reigning Mississippi Amateur champion has failed to accomplish all week.
“My speed with the putter was off early,” said Ellis, a native of Senatobia, Miss. “The course played a little longer today. But overall, I played solid. I had no mud balls out there. I got in a few bunkers today, but any time you’re in a bunker, it’s a bad shot, it doesn’t matter if the course is wet or not.”
Ellis birdied Nos. 16 and 17 to move to 9-under (67-67-70) for the tournament.
So what is Ellis looking for Sunday? “I’ll take anything in the 60s again. I think I’ll be hard to beat with a number there.”
Ellis started the third round one stroke ahead of John Fox of Clinton, Tenn. Fox finished his rain- delayed second-round 67 Saturday morning with a birdie on No. 7.
Vanderbilt sophomore Hudson Johnson followed his second-round 66 with a 67 Saturday to move into third, two shots off the lead.
Fox kept the pressure on.
He matched Ellis’ 70 with one of his own. Fox opened the tournament with a 68.
“I was a little bit nervous out there today,” the Tennessee Tech golfer said. “I’ve come close to winning a college tournament before but nothing as big as this.”
Fox said his wayward driver got him in trouble early and often Saturday. He double bogeyed No. 3 and hooked a drive into the lake on No. 7. But he chipped in from 40 yards out on 7 to save par and made the turn at 1 over.
“I had to stay patient,” Fox said. “I kept telling myself to try to make par. I was trying to guide the ball off the tee and just seemed to stay in trouble. I am extremely happy to get off the course 1 under today.”
He likes his chances coming into Sunday’s final 18 holes, but wouldn’t predict a winning score.
“My game is right,” he said. “It is all about me getting comfortable. My tee shot will have to be working tomorrow.”
Johnson, meanwhile, said playing in the afternoon gave him a little drier course to play.
“I was able to stay consistent on my game today,” said the 20-year-old from Longview, Texas. “My putter was a little rusty, but I got it going.
“The way I played, I couldn’t have asked for anything lower than 67.”
Twenty-year-old Nicholas Smith shot himself into contention Saturday with a 67.
Smith, a member of the Florida State golf team, went into the third round at 1 under and landed the score he was shooting for, a 67.
Smith stands at 208, alone in fourth place.
“The front nine out here has been hard on most of the field this week, but I’ve been playing some of my best golf on it,” he said.
Smith said he sank a 35-foot putt on the par-3 12th hole for a birdie. He opened the tournament with rounds of 71 and 70.
“I knew if I could get to 4 under, I’d be in striking distance on Sunday,” Smith said. “I figure the first one to 9-under wins.”
Recent Ole Miss graduate Brice Bailey, playing in one of his last amateur tournaments, started his third round alone in third place with a 136. After a horrid start which found him 4 over after three holes, Bailey fought back to a 2-over 73. He is in a four-way tie for fifth at 209.
“I got some bad breaks. On No. 2, I was up against a tree and had to hit one backwards,” Bailey said.
“I lipped out five or six putts. I was able to get back to even before bogeying a couple of holes late.”
Andrew Landry, a junior-to-be at Arkansas, carded the tournament’s low round so far with a 65 and said “it should have been a 61.”
“I drove the ball real well. I ironed it the best I have all summer and couldn’t get out of sync today,” he said.
“I could fly the chip shots to the hole and make them spin on the soft greens. The ball was sticking, and I made putts all day.”
After opening with rounds of 75 and 76, the Beaumont, Texas, golfer is in the middle of the pack with a 216.
“My swing is there and I’m going to let it go,” said Landry, who had a 72 scoring average in his school’s fall and spring seasons.
“Another 65 will put me near the top of the board. I’ll take that and let them make mistakes.”
Among the local golfers, Stewart Whitt of Athens, shot a 69 Saturday for a 212 total. Three shots back is Falkville golfer Kyle Pressley after a third-round 72.
Leader: Ole Miss senior Kyle Ellis stays on top of the leaderboard after a third-round 70 to give him a 9-under 204 total going into Sunday’s final round.
In the shadow: John Fox of Tennessee Tech stays a stroke behind. His play helped Tech win the college division.
Going low: Andrew Landry of Beaumont, Texas, blistered the 7,111-yard tract with a 65 for the tourney’s lowest round Saturday.
Locals on the board: Athens native Stewart Whitt is eight shots off the lead after his 2-under 69. Three shots back is Falkville’s Kyle Pressley, who shot a third-round 72.
Sunday: The leaders should finish about 3 p.m.
College final standings
Here are the top 10 scores in the college team results from the 40th annual Daikin America Spirit of America golf tournament at the par-71 Burningtree Country Club on Saturday. The scores are 54-hole totals.
First place (Each player received $750 gift certificate from the pro shop)
Tennessee Tech (422): John Fox 205, Calvin Clark 217.
Second place ($500 gift certificates)
Florida State (424): Nicholas Smith 208, Bradley Ruch 216.
Third place ($350 gift certificates)
University of Alabama (424): Ben Moody 212, Stewart Whitt 212.
Fourth place ($200 gift certificates)
Mississippi State (430): Matt Fast 213, Brian Mason 217.
Fifth: University of Mississippi (431); Sixth: University of Arkansas (432); Seventh: Georgia State University (435); Eighth: Louisiana State University (437); Ninth: Richmond (440); 10th tie: Tennessee-Chattanooga and Arkansas (441).
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