La'Cassie is Day 2's golden Gopher
Mind you, La’Cassie hasn’t had to worry about what kind of grass lurks around the 6,803-yard, par-70 course for most of the past two days of the 110th NCAA Championship. The senior All-American has been spending most of his time hitting fairways and greens, posting a bogey-free second-round 65 Thurssay to take the individual lead at eight-under 132.
“I just played smart, nothing special,” said La’Cassie who missed only three greens on the day after missing just four the previous day. “I feel like I’m getting off the tee well, which is what you have to do around here.”
Through 36 holes, La’Cassie is three strokes ahead of Vanderbilt’s Jon Curran, who shot a second-round 64, and three shots up on a foursome of golfers, first-round leader Rob Grube of Stanford (71), Coastal Carolina’s Dustin Johnson (68), UAB’s Zach Sucher (67) and Georgia Tech’s Cameron Tringale (68).
While La’Cassie passed Grube in the medalist race, nobody could jump the second-ranked Cardinal teamwise. The California school broke par for a second-straight day, shooting a two-under 278 to move to seven-under 553 overall, a shot ahead of the Golden Gophers. Counting for the Cardinal were Grube, Joseph Bramlett (68), Zack Miller (69) and Matt Savage (70).
Nine teams are within 13 shots of Stanford, including No. 7 UCLA (second-round 280, 10 back) and No. 4 Oklahoma State (279, 13 back). Eighteen shots off the pace sits top-ranked Georgia, who couldn’t get get things clicking en route to a nine-over 289.
“The golf course isn’t playing that hard,” said Bulldog coach Chris Haack. “The guys just aren’t managing their games very well. We’re missing greens with wedges. We can’t do that stuff.
La’Cassie, last year’s Western Amateur champion, has let brains beat brawn over the first 36 holes. He only hit five drivers during each round, keeping the club in the bag so that he won’t find the rough. So far the plan is working.
“He’s our senior leader, and he sets the tone for us,” said Minnesota coach Brad James. “His expectations are high, and they should be.”
During Wednesday’s first round, No. 12 actually ranked the most difficult hole on the course, with a 3.58 stroke average. Today it played on to a 3.37 average, making it the third most difficult yet it still quickly derailed several rounds.
Case in point: Coastal Carolina’s Dustin Johnson, who was six under on his round and nine under for the tournament when he made a double bogey on the hole after his 8-iron tee shot spun back off the green into the water. A bogey on the 13th and a triple bogey on the 14th dropped him all the way back to even par on the day before he birdied Nos. 16 and 18 to finish with a 68 and a five-under 135.
“The trees behind the green block out some of the wind near the green but when the ball gets in the air the wind kicks in,” Johnson said, who bogeyed the hole in the first round.
“It’s just hard to pick the right club, you’re so high in the air,” noted Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler. “You’re got to hit a perfect shot. And if you don’t, the up and down from around the green can be brutal.”
No wonder on the hole’s description in the course yardage book reads: “You will feel an incomparable exhilaration if you get your par on this hole.”