Photo: Rylee Reinertson.
By Ken MacLeod
In his round of 2-under 68 at Southern Hills Country Club Tuesday, Oklahoma senior Grant Hirschman personally provided most of the cushion the Sooners will take over Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Texas into Wednesday’s final round of the Big 12 Championship with a series of theatrics.
First came a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-3 11th hole, followed by an exceedingly difficult downhill eagle putt of 35 feet from deep in the fringe behind the par-5 13th green. Then it was on to the par-3 14th, where he curled in a 30-footer with 15 feet of left-to-right break.
Following his 67 in Monday’s afternoon round, Hirschman is tied for the individual lead with U.S. Amateur runnerup and recent Masters low amateur Doug Ghim of Texas, both at even-par 210 through 54 holes.
The Sooners, who also received rounds of even-par 70 from Brad Dalke, 71 from Quade Cummins and 72 from Blaine Hale, shot 1-over 281 as a team and moved past Iowa State into a three-shot lead. OSU (284) and Texas (281) are tied for third, six shots behind, while Baylor, coached by Oklahoma favorite son Mike McGraw, shot the day’s best round of 280 and is nine shots behind.
With rain and colder temperatures expected Wednesday, the team that handles the conditions best likely will prevail. As Ghim pointed out, Texas shot the day’s best score in miserable conditions during the final round of the 2017 Big 12 Championship at Prairie Dunes as Texas edged Oklahoma State by a shot. Oklahoma, which has taken on the bulldog mentality of coach Ryan Hybl, is also not likely to relinquish its lead easily.
The surprise team of the five in contention is certainly Iowa State. In a miserable spring, the Cyclones have been able to practice outdoors only five or six times, according to coach Andrew Tank, but have won two of their last three events. All five players shot either 71 or 72 Tuesday and three players are in the top 12, with Sam Vincent tied for sixth at 213, Frank Lindwall tied for ninth 214 and Denzel Leremia tied for 12th at 215.
Oklahoma State was led Tuesday by rounds of 70 by freshman Matthew Wolff and junior Zach Bauchou, while Kristoffer Ventura shot 71 and Sam Stevens and Viktor Hovland both shot 73. Hovland dropped from a tie for first into a tie for fourth place, two shots behind Hirschman and Ghim.
Hirschman said Hybl talked him into using a putter from behind the 13th green when he was leaning towards trying a chip shot.
“I was just trying to get it on the green and nestle it down there close,” Hirschman said. “Seeing it go in was a huge boost.”
“Our job today was to go out and get ourselves in position to win a golf tournament,” Hybl said. “It’s rare that you blow everybody out. But we’re in position to win and our guys will be ready for that opportunity. The weather is going to get different. It’s going to be tough. We’ll have to dig in our heels and manage that. Tomorrow the guys that make the least amount of mistakes are going to win.”
“We’re certainly not in the position we’d like to be, we’d like to have a big lead,” said OSU coach Alan Bratton. “But it’s a 72-hole event. We get to go out front tomorrow and I’m confident we’ll put up a good number.”
Ghim has been in contention for the individual title through 54 holes the past three years and hopes that experience benefits him Wednesday.
“It would be great to win it, especially on a championship course like this,” he said. “It would mean a lot to me.”