Posted: 11:46 am Monday, March 3rd, 2014
By Chip Towers
MONDAY MORNING REWIND
ATHENS – The Year of the Dog continues in professional golf.
Russell Henley became the latest Georgia Bulldog to have his named etched into a trophy on the PGA Tour. Henley, who played for the Bulldogs from 2008-11, became the fourth UGA letterman to record a victory on the tour this season on Sunday when he bested Rory McIlroy and two others in a playoff at the Honda Classic. Henley tapped in a two-foot birdie putt on the first play-off hole, a par 5, to claim the win over McIlroy, Ryan Palmer and Scotland’s Russell Knox.
That continues the hot streak for Georgia golfers. 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson (2000-01) won the Northern Trust Open two weeks ago, Harris English (2008-11) won the OHL Classic in Mexico in November and Chris Kirk (2004-07) McGladrey Classic in St. Simons, also in November. English also teamed with Georgia Tech alum Matt Kuchar to win the Franklin Templeton Shootout back in December.
“It just seems like everybody’s been out there now at two or three years into their pro golf career and everybody’s getting more and more comfortable, I guess,” said UGA coach Chris Haack, who coached them all in college. “They’ve all kind of grown up around each other and around this program. So when they see one do something good, they realize they can do it, too. Hopefully they’re just kind of feeding on each other.”
As a result there are Bulldog paw prints all over the FedEx Cup standings and PGA Tour money list. English, Kirk and Watson are 3, 4 and 5 in the latest FedEx standings and Henley’s win moved him up all the way to 16 from 142. English continues to pace UGA at third on the money list with $2.32 million, followed closely by Watson at fourth ($2.16) and Kirk is seventh ($1.95).
Not surprisingly, the Bulldogs are the runaway leader in the race for the Rivals Cup in professional golf. That’s a website that keeps track of alums from all schools in professional sports. Tech won it last year in golf with more than $11 million in winnings. Georgia already is up over $9 million and the season hasn’t even reached the first major.
Work to do in hoops
The Georgia men’s basketball team suffered a tough loss at Arkansas on Saturday. The Bulldogs got 25 points from Kenny Gaines and 13 from Marcus Thornton but couldn’t overcome 16 turnovers and an inability to get to the foul line en route to an 87-75 loss.
“They won the battle of tempo and we played a little faster than we can play well for 40 minutes,” coach Mark Fox said. “The difference in the first half was the free-throw line. In the second half, both teams cooled off. Neither team was able to shoot as well in the second half. We just turned it over too much and that really was the difference.”
That puts the Bulldogs (16-12, 10-6 SEC) into a tough spot for the final week of the regular season. They remain in third place by a game over Arkansas (20-9, 9-7) and Tennessee (18-11, 9-7). But the Vols have the tiebreaker over Georgia by virtue of a head-to-head win in the only meeting. The Bulldogs split with the Razorbacks but would lose a tiebreaker based on RPI.
So Georgia effective needs to win its last two – Wednesday vs. Mississippi State and Saturday at LSU – to remain in the top four and gain the coveted double-bye to the quarterfinals in the SEC tournament. If the Bulldogs split and Tennessee and Arkansas does, too, they fall to fifth.
Arkansas is at home against Ole Miss and on the road at Alabama while the Vols travel to Auburn on Wednesday and play host Missouri in the season finale.
In the meantime, the Bulldogs will be celebrating Donte Williams, their only senior, for Senior Night on Wednesday when they play host to Mississippi State. These Bulldogs beat those Bulldogs 75-55 on Feb. 12 in Starkville.
If everything holds to form, that sets up for a huge game in Baton Rouge to end the season.
Baseball vs. Jackets
The Diamond Dogs finally got their season heading in the right direction under new coach Scott Stricklin with a three-game sweep over Binghamton this past weekend. The good vibes come at a good time as Georgia (5-6) plays host to rival Georgia Tech (7-4) Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. at Foley Field. The game will be televised by CSS.
Stricklin, of course, was a Georgia Tech assistant under Danny Hall from 2002-04 and also served as a volunteer coach there from 1998-99. It’s the first of the annual three-games series with Yellow Jackets, who will play home-and-home and then at Turner Field in Atlanta. The Bulldogs won the series last year 2-1.
Lady Dogs need more Ws
Georgia will enter this week’s SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament as the No. 9 seed in the 14-team bracket. The Lady Bulldogs (19-10) finished league play with a 7-9 record and in a five-way tie for sixth following Sunday’s 77-48 victory over Mississippi State. Georgia will face Vanderbilt in the quarterfinal round of the tournament at noon on Thursday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth.
“Our conference has never experienced a year like this one,” coach Andy Landers said. “The competitiveness of our league is illustrated perfectly in the final standings. I doubt that anyone would have believed prior to the season that this type of finish was possible, but I suspect that everyone in our league believed that this could occur after about three weeks into conference play. It was upside down then.”
The Lady Dogs have a tough row to hoe with regard to postseason play. They lost at Vandy 66-58 win to open SEC play on Jan. 2. Should they get by the Commodores, they’ll face top-seeded South Carolina in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Georgia is 44-30 all-time in SEC tournament play.