NCAA MEN’S GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS:

Hogs' goal: Keep it straight off tee

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Friday, May 25, 2018
Arkansas sophomore Mason Overstreet finished second at the NCAA Championships in 2017.
Photo by Arkansas Athletic Communications
Arkansas sophomore Mason Overstreet finished second at the NCAA Championships in 2017.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The No. 18 Arkansas Razorbacks will not be one of the favorites to reach the eight-team match play portion of the NCAA Men's Golf Championships this week in Stillwater, Okla.

But in Coach Brad McMakin's mind, the Hogs have a good shot on the treacherous 7,460-yard layout at Karsten Creek Golf Club.

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ARKANSAS MEN’S GOLF

at NCAA Championships

Where Karsten Creek Golf Course, Stillwater, Okla.

When Today through Wednesday

Course Par 72, 7,460 yards

Format Three rounds of stroke play, field cut to 15 teams; fourth round of stroke play on Monday to determine medalist and field cut to 8 teams for three rounds of match play

Arkansas tee time No. 10 tee, 7 a.m. (with Arizona State and Stanford)

Projected Arkansas lineup (stroke average) Alvaro Ortiz (70.6), Mason Overstreet (71.0), William Buhl (72.1), Luis Garza (72.3), Tyson Reeder (74.6)

Noteworthy The Razorbacks are making their 21st appearance at the NCAA championships. Their best finish was second place in 2009 after a 3-2 loss to Texas A&M in the first year of the match play format. … The Razorbacks are one of 13 programs who placed teams in both the women’s and men’s NCAA championships, along with fellow SEC schools Alabama, Auburn and Florida, as well as Arizona State, Baylor, Duke, Florida State, Kent State, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Stanford and Texas.

"If our team goes down there and plays well, we definitely have the team to do it," McMakin said. "We see it every day at The Blessings. It's a good fit for our eye."

The Razorbacks will tee it up on No. 10 today at 7 a.m. with No. 17 Stanford and No. 19 Arizona State.

The Blessings, the Razorbacks' home course and site of the 2019 NCAA Golf Championships, has the same kind of ability to punish stray tee shots and reward straight shooters as does Karsten Creek.

The event will feature three rounds of stroke play, a cut from 30 to 15 teams for a final round of stroke play on Monday, then a cut to eight teams for match play.

Arkansas will play senior leader Alvaro Ortiz, who played a key role in the Razorbacks' sizzling finish in the final round at the NCAA Norman (Okla.) Regional last week, and four sophomores in Mason Overstreet, William Buhl, Luis Garza and Tyson Reeder.

McMakin has always considered difficult courses a positive for his team.

"I like the fact that it's very hard," he said. "If you play well on that golf course, any of the 30 teams have a chance to make the final eight.

"You have to drive your golf ball in the fairway. It penalizes you off the tee. It's not overly tight, but if you miss a foul ball it's gone. There's no getting into the trees and chipping it out. Driving the ball in the fairway is the key to Karsten Creek."

The Razorbacks had to battle back from 10th place on the final day of the regional in Norman to make the five-team cut. They did it by firing an 8-under 280 on the final day, led by Buhl's 5 under and Ortiz's 3 under.

Buhl, the Razorbacks' fop finisher at the SEC championships with a tie for third place, changed putters during the spring season and it's helped him capitalize on his driving accuracy ability to hit greens in regulation.

"He's an exceptional ball striker," McMakin said. "Karsten Creek is tailor-made for him. He's not going to miss fairways and hit balls into the bushes."

McMakin said Overstreet, the NCAA individual runner-up last year, has worked hard to correct a flaw in his swing that sidetracked him for several weeks.

Ortiz, the team leader with a 70.6 scoring average, shot 4 under on the final seven holes at the regional to help the Hogs squeeze into the NCAAs.

"Alvaro's been a great leader for us this year," McMakin said. "He's probably top five in Arkansas golf history. He's had a great year and he's excited he was able to finish strong and for it to not be his last event.

"He's carried four young sophomores around all year long and helped them to a top-15 ranking and the national championship and we're really proud of him."

Sports on 05/25/2018

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