Oct. 22, 2011
BY JOHN PAINTER
Nathalie Mansson seems determined to keep Tennessee afloat in the Mercedes-Benz SEC/Pac-12 Challenge.
The senior and 2009 medalist at this event matched her career low score of 67 Saturday as the Lady Vols held on to fourth place despite losing top player Erica Popson after just nine holes. Mansson is in a first-place tie heading into Sunday's final round at Holston Hills Country Club.
"I love playing with this much competition," Mansson said. "It makes it even more fun to play well and to see that I can be up there and the team can be up there too."
Mansson jumped from 15th place to the tie for first with Alabama's Stephanie Meadow at 5-under-par 139. The last time Mansson shot 67 in a collegiate tournament also was a second-day round en route to winning the Rebel Invitational last April in Mississippi. The Stockholm native owns three collegiate titles.
"I'm confident because we are at Holston; it's our home course," Mansson said. "I'm just happy to be out here playing. Tomorrow I'm just going to go out and try to play as best I can."
Chessey Thomas added 71 for the Lady Vols, with Sara Monberg coming home in 76 and AJ Newell 78. Popson was 7 over par when she withdrew after nine holes. Competing as individuals, Kaitlyn Rohrback shot 72 and is tied for sixth place, and Leigh Henderson finished with 86.
Alabama leaped past UCLA into first overall in the team standings. The Crimson Tide shot 1-over 289 for a 36-hole total of 3-under 573. UCLA is next at 578 after shooting 9 over Saturday, or 16 strokes worse than its Friday effort. Auburn is third at 582, one stroke ahead of Tennessee's 583.
"You hate to be in this strong of a field with four," Pavón said. "The Fall Preview (in Nashville) was the other situation with a strong field and we had four there too. But these other four girls are great players and they can all shoot even or better our here, so I expect us to be competitive tomorrow with or without Erica.
"We just really have to be determined and everybody give it all they have and we'll see what happens."
The SEC took over the challenge lead with a strong second round. The SEC's 12-school average Saturday was 296.5 for a two-day total of 598.2, more than two strokes better than the Pac-12's 600.6.
Popson made it through nine holes Saturday before calling it a day because she couldn't maintain her grip on the club. Surgery is scheduled for the coming week to repair ligament damage to her thumb.
"It's frustrating because Kaitlyn's playing so well," Pavón said. "But Erica wanted to play, of course, and hoped to get through it. They are working on her. Maybe she will come out tomorrow, maybe not."
"All the putts dropped on the back," Mansson said. "I had two three-putts on the front and I was just not really there, but on the back nine everything dropped. It was nice."
Pavón has all the confidence Mansson can handle the heat and pressure of sleeping on a lead.
"I'm excited for her to be in the lead," Pavón said. "Being a senior, I'm sure she has some fire in her and really wants to win this tournament. I know she will handle it well."
Chessey Thomas noticed her injured teammate was missing from the foursome behind her and stepped up her play over the last nine.
"I could see there was only a threesome behind me when they turned," she said. "It kind of gives you an extra kick to bear down and stay focused a little more, but we're thinking about her and praying for her. It's a tough situation because she is able to play through it well so much of the time. Definitely tougher without her."
Thomas shot 34 on the inward nine, with birdies on three of the last four holes. She said a little help from the coaching staff got her moving in the right direction.
"Judi sent our assistant, Marci (Turner), out with me and she was with me for all but three or four holes," Thomas said. "We picked a lot of good lines on putts and I actually hit my lines. It's funny how that works; you make a few more when you pick and hit your lines.
"She kept me loose and it wasn't a perfect day but much improved."
"Chessey is a really strong player and this golf course really suits her well," Pavón said. "She always plays well here; actually, yesterday was the surprising day and not today. Hopefully, she will keep her confidence up and have another good one tomorrow."
Thomas is tied with AJ Newell, who went in the other direction Saturday. The freshman was even par through five holes but never could get anything going and finished at 78.
"I hit some irons in some bad spots and didn't hit any putts," Newell said. "If I could have made a couple of putts, it might have jump-started my round and it would be a completely different story. It just didn't happen and that's the way it goes sometimes.
"I say let's just go out and see what we can do tomorrow. Have some fun, try to hit some good iron shots and make as many putts as possible."
Monberg made par on her first 10 holes before the good vibes departed and she finished at 76. The putts weren't dropping and the junior settled for four bogeys and four pars the rest of the way.
"I did not make a putt and I did not make a birdie," she said. "I hit some close shots on the last three or four holes and had chances, but one of them I three-putted and the other ones I just missed."
Monberg is tied for 20th place 2-over-par 146.
"That was not good and nothing was feeling right," Rohrback said of the early deficit. "But I made a lot of really good putts to get it back to even at the turn. And then I just played steady on my second nine."
She got back to even thanks to a tap-in birdie at No. 15 and then back-to-back birdies at the consecutive par-5s, Nos. 17 and 18. From there, it was nine straight pars and a two-day total of 1-under-par 143.
"I had a lot of good up-and-downs, which were crucial," she said.
Henderson says she is ready for another crack at Holston Hills after her 86 on Saturday.
"I'm just going to try to relax and play golf," the junior said. "I didn't do that at all today. I couldn't get anything remotely close to good going. I just need to go out there and finish my golf swing and try to putt well."
Henderson is in 109th place at 18-over 162.
Sunday's final round begins with a shotgun start at 10 a.m. The top four teams - Alabama, UCLA, Auburn and Tennessee - are playing together. Sunday's forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and a high of 71, with light winds.
Live scoring and live video streaming of final-round action is available on UTLadyVols.com.
|4.||TENNESSEE|| 291-292--583 (+7) || 5. || Vanderbilt || 296-290--586 (+10) || 6. || Southern California || 298-295--593 (+17) || 7. || Mississippi || 301-294--595 (+19) || T-8. || Colorado || 295-301--596 (+20) || T-8. || Washington || 295-301--596 (+20) || T-10. || Florida || 298-299--597 (+21) || T-10. || Georgia || 305-292--597 (+21) || 12. || Arizona || 296-303--599 (+23) |
|T-13.||Arizona State||300-301--601 (+25)|
|19.||Oregon State||313-300--613 (+37)|
|T-20.||South Carolina||310-305--615 (+39)|
|22.||Washington State||312-309--621 (+45)|
|23.||Mississippi State||317-310--627 (+51)|
|T-1.||Nathalie Mansson, TENNESSEE||72-67--139 (-5)|
|T-1.||Stephanie Meadow, Alabama||68-71--139 (-5)|
|T-3.||Milena Savich, Georgia||73-67--140 (-4)|
|T-3.||Lauren Stratton, Vanderbilt||68-72--140 (-4)|
|5.||Giulia Molinaro, Arizona State||72-70--142 (-2)|
|T-1.||Nathalie Mansson||72-67--139 (-5)|
|T-6.||Kaitlyn Rohrback *||71-72--143 (-1)|
|T-20.||Sara Monberg||70-76--146 (+2)|
|T-37.||AJ Newell||71-78--149 (+5)|
|T-37.||Chessey Thomas||78-71--149 (+5)|
|109.||Leigh Henderson *||76-86--162 (+18)|
|T-119.||Erica Popson||78-WD (--)|
|*Competing as individual.|