October 22, 2014 10:08:05 AM
WEST POINT -- After the second day of the Bulldog Invitational at Old Waverly Golf Course, Mississippi State's women's golf team holds a 22-stroke lead over the competition, more than quadrupling the five-stroke lead it held at the end of day one.
As a team, MSU shot 11 strokes under par Tuesday to move to -14 under for the tournament. Memphis is in second place at +8, with South Florida and Florida International tied for third at +10.
The competition is tighter on the individual level, as Bulldog senior Ally McDonald finished five strokes under par on day two to take the lead from teammate Jessica Peng, who led after the first day. McDonald, at -8 for the tournament, is two strokes ahead of USF's Ashley Burke entering today's final round.
MSU coach Ginger Brown-Lemm thought her team played its best golf Tuesday after shaking off some tense moments Monday.
"I think day one we pressurized ourself pretty well and the scores showed that," Brown-Lemm said. "But today we were able to go ahead and play the game we normally play. We had some team members that struggled a little, but others stepped up and came in under par. I'm very proud of all five of them."
While there likely won't be much drama at the team level, there was a nice individual chess match between tournament leaders McDonald and Burke on the back nine. Heading to the 18th hole, McDonald and Burke were tied for the tournament lead at -7. Burke shot an even par on day one, but was seven strokes under par after 17 holes on day two and had caught up with McDonald.
However, home-course advantage worked in McDonald's favor on the final hole. McDonald could have played it safe by using a three-wood off the tee. Instead, the senior went with the driver because she knew she was capable of hitting a good tee shot. The move paid off, as McDonald's tee shot put her in prime position to close the round with a birdie.
Burke's tee shot landed further back than McDonald's, which left her with a tougher putt. Burke three-putted to take a bogey, which gave McDonald the two-stroke lead.
Brown-Lemm liked McDonald's chances to come out on top at the end of that battle.
"She usually comes out on the better end of that," Brown-Lemm said. "Ally is just a great player. She knows the course and got that one to roll in for her. She had been struggling a little bit with her putter, but that worked out perfectly."
McDonald will have to hold off Burke and Peng (three strokes back) today to get the lowest score of the tournament. McDonald ran into some trouble on No. 4 when a wayward drive hit a tree to the right of the fairway and bounced out of bounds. Fortunately, McDonald had birdied two of the first three holes to negate the impact of the penalty.
"It took a little bit after (a penalty on hole 4) to get going, but once I got to the back nine I just tried to give myself opportunities," McDonald said. "I've played this course a lot, so I know if I keep giving myself opportunities things will happen. I finished with three birdies on the last four holes, so I'm pretty pleased with how I finished."
While McDonald and MSU have the advantage of knowing the course they practice on, Burke said that won't faze her today as she tries to make another run at the top of the leaderboard.
"You just have to go in there and look at it like everyone is playing the same course and same conditions," Burke said. "They've seen it a few more times but go in there and stick to your game plan."
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