Garrett Johnson, a junior golfer at Mississippi State, tees off at the ninth hole during Tuesday's final round of the Old Waverly Collegiate Championship. Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to the Dispatch
April 17, 2019 1:52:18 AM
WEST POINT - Mississippi State junior golfer Garrett Johnson shined bright with another top-5 finish Tuesday in the Old Waverly Collegiate Championship.
Johnson finished in a tie for third place in the two-day event held at Old Waverly Golf Club, leading the Bulldogs to a fifth-place finish.
Johnson shot three consecutive rounds of 3-under 69. His 9-under 207 tied a career-best tournament total. He tied for fifth place in the same event one year ago.
"This week, my driver was the key for me," Johnson said. "The past few weeks, I've been struggling being able to hit the fairway, and normally that's what I do really well. From there, I was able to put my ball in position where I can succeed out here. I have to stay patient, that's my game. If I try and force things, that's when I start getting into trouble."
Johnson's 69, combined with junior Peng Pichaikool's 68 in the final round, helped State card a field-best 5-under-par score. State finished with a 13-under 851 at Old Waverly to take fifth place, a much-needed top-5 performance for the squad.
"It was a really good final day. I thought all of our guys hung in there nicely," MSU men's golf coach Dusty Smith said. "The wind picked up a little bit different from yesterday (Monday). The wind was out of the south, which is what you want on this golf course."
Louisiana Monroe won the team title with a score of 846, beating out Ole Miss by a single stroke.
Among 10 MSU golfers, four Bulldogs finished in the top 15. Playing as individuals, Ross Bell and Ben Nelson shot 4-under and 3-under par for the two days to card successful showings at home. Bell's tied-for-eight finish bookends his Bulldog career with top-10 performances as a freshman and as a senior at Old Waverly Golf Club.
Johnson caught fire on the back nine Tuesday, collecting three birdies between holes 12 and 15. On 12, Johnson buried his second shot from the other side of the green and over a slope. On 18, he narrowly missed another with a great chip in as he made par.
Ford Clegg was State's second-best player on MSU's team scorecard. The reigning SEC Co-Freshman Golfer of the Week started the tournament shooting 33 holes without a bogey. He shot 3-under in the first round for his sixth top-15 showing of the season, which is tied for the most on the team with Pichaikool.
Carding a 1-under 215, senior Austin Rose carded a season-best tournament total in saying farewell to Old Waverly. His tied-for-20th finish was his lowest since September 2017 at the Bearcat Invitational. He shot important rounds on Monday, carding a 71 and a 70, respectively.
Pichaikool responded with a 4-under round Tuesday after posting scores of 75 and 80 on Monday.
"Peng's performance today tells me that he's not a quitter, it tells me that he is coachable and it tells me that he has a lot of heart," Smith said. "It was a big deal for him to go out, shoot a 68 under these conditions and get some confidence back heading into the SEC Tournament."
Jackson Suber led Ole Miss with a runner-up individual finish after a final round 7-under 65, a career low for the freshman.
The Rebels led the field in total birdies with 56 and gained 25 strokes off the par 5's in their final tune-up before the SEC Championship. For the second day in a row, Ole Miss owned the par-5 ninth hole, going 4-under as a team that moved them into second place ahead of No. 4 Vanderbilt going into the final nine.
"The guys showed a lot of fight today," head coach Chris Malloy said. "We didn't get off to the greatest of starts, but we really started getting some momentum going into the back nine. We unfortunately finished one shot short, didn't quite get it done, but I was proud of what I saw especially after our last time out. Our guys showed up and gave everything they had."
Suber fired a career-best 65 (-7) in the final round, tying the Old Waverly Collegiate Championship record. The freshman went bogey-free, tallying five birdies and one eagle.
"Everything was going well out there, especially the putter," Suber said. "I kept the ball in front of me and didn't make any bad shots. I played solid golf the first two rounds but was lights out today. I made a lot of long putts and got a lot of shots close, which leads to no bogeys. This runner-up finish will give us a chip on our shoulder to go win next week."
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