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GOLF ROUNDUP: Georgia Tech blanked in semis, denied NCAA national championship; ex-Yellow Jackets star Kuchar leading at PGA Memorial

Former Georgia Tech star Matt Kuchar watches his shot on the 15th hole during Saturday’s third round. Kuchar has a two-shot lead heading into today's final round.

Former Georgia Tech star Matt Kuchar watches his shot on the 15th hole during Saturday’s third round. Kuchar has a two-shot lead heading into today's final round.

MILTON — The season ended for the Georgia Tech golf team Saturday, and even though the Yellow Jackets were eliminated in the semifinals of the NCAA Division I Men’s Championships, they established a good foundation for next year.

Tech was eliminated by Alabama, 3-0, at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course — Georgia Tech’s home course — leaving coach Bruce Heppler’s team one win shy of reaching the final round. Alabama will meet unheralded Illinois, which upset No. 1 seed Cal, in the final this morning.

“This will be tough to swallow for a little while,” Georgia Tech’s Seth Reeves said. “It’s cool to be part of this team. Next year could be our year to be like Cal. I think we could be that good.”

Tech entered the tournament as the No. 7 seed and qualified second in the stroke-play portion of the event. The Yellow Jackets beat UNLV, 3-2, on Friday but never got any traction against Alabama, which will make its second straight appearance in the final match.

“Not the way we wanted to end our season, but our guys fought really hard,” Heppler said. “From the time Bobby (Wyatt) and Cory (Whitsett) got to Tuscaloosa, that’s been one of the best teams in the country. It’s no shame to lose to them. They got all the way to the finals last year, and they know how it feels to win this, and they have another chance in the finals. But our guys fought hard, and we’ve had a good week here, and we’ll see how hard they want to get back again.”

Tech’s Shun Yat Hak was two-up after seven holes before Alabama’s Trey Mullinax reversed the momentum and wound up with a 4 and 3 win. Tech’s Ollie Schniederjans lost a 3 and 2 decision to Whitsett, the nation’s No. 4-ranked player. Reeves lost 3 and 1 to Justin Thomas, who is ranked No. 8.

Two other matches finished all square. Tech’s Anders Albertson tied third-ranked Wyatt when Wyatt bogeyed the final hole. The players were in the fairway on their first extra hole when the match was stopped and Alabama declared the winner.

Reeves lost two of the first four holes to Thomas to get behind early. He trailed by as many as three holes before trying to mount a comeback. A birdie at No. 14 on a 60-plus foot putt trimmed the lead and he nearly chipped in on the 15th hole. The match ended when he bogeyed the 17th hole after aggressively charging a birdie putt and failing to make the comebacker.

“I missed some opportunities,” Reeves said. “It could have changed the momentum if I had taken advantage of the chances I had.”

Reeves, a redshirt junior, will lead a solid group of returning players. Albertson and Schiederjans are both sophomores, Bo Andrews and Richard Werenski (who didn’t make the trip with the team for the NCAAs) are both juniors, and Hak is a freshman.

Reeves won his quarterfinal match against UNLV’s Carl Johnson 4 and 3 on Friday. His best finish this season was a tie for second at the Golfweek Preview Invitational in the fall. He is expected to be a foundational member of next year’s team.

“Overall the week was very positive,” Reeves siad. “It was good to get here. This is the first time we’ve gotten to the semifinals, so it shows the program is getting better.”

KUCHAR IN CONTROL AT MEMORIAL:

DUBLIN, Ohio, June 1 (Reuters) - While Tiger Woods battled to the second worst score of his professional career, Matt Kuchar held his nerve in tricky gusting winds to grab a two-shot lead after Saturday's third round at the Memorial Tournament.

American Kuchar, who clinched one of the biggest victories of his career at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February, ground out a two-under-par 70 to post an eight-under total of 208 in the weather-delayed PGA Tour event.

Though every player in the field struggled on lightning-fast greens at Muirfield Village Golf Club as the shifting winds gusted up to 32 mph (51.5 kph), ice-cool Kuchar mixed five birdies with three bogeys to take over at the top.

Americans Kevin Chappell (68) and Kyle Stanley (73) were tied for second at six under with Australian Matt Jones (70), 2010 champion Justin Rose of England (71) and second-round leader Bill Haas (76) a further stroke adrift.

"This place is really challenging, particularly with winds at 25 miles an hour all day," Kuchar told reporters after moving a step closer to winning his sixth PGA Tour title.

"It was a bit of a survival. I was fortunate to make a handful of birdies. Anytime you make a birdie in these conditions, you feel like you're really up on the field here."

Kuchar brought good form into this week, having finished second at the Crowne Plaza Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas, on Sunday, and he oozed confidence after the third round.

"It was a good, solid, steady round of golf," said the 34-year-old. "I drove it well. I feel like I'm hitting it solid, and when you're hitting it solid, the wind doesn't affect the ball as much as the un-solid hits.

"I feel really confident. I had some good stuff going on last week, carrying into this week. It's nice to see it keep going and to have another chance to win late on Sunday will be fun."

CHALLENGING CONDITIONS

The unheralded Chappell, hunting his first PGA Tour victory in his third full season on the circuit, expressed the views of many when asked how much he had enjoyed the challenging wind conditions.

"I guess it's like a prize fighter," he smiled after his 68 matched fellow American J.J. Henry for the lowest score in the third round. "He enjoys winning, but I don't know if he enjoys getting hit that much."

South African Charl Schwartzel laboured to a 76 to finish at four under. The 2011 Masters champion had birdied his last two holes for a 71 to trim Haas' overnight lead to one shot when the weather-delayed second round was completed earlier in the day.

Danger lurked at every corner of the tree-lined course designed by tournament host Jack Nicklaus and five-times champion Woods struggled as much as anyone in the unpredictable gusts as he carded a 79.

The American world number one recorded a bogey, two doubles and a triple to reach the turn in eight-over 44, his worst nine as a professional, and declined to speak to reporters after bogeying his final hole, the par-four ninth.

"It was a rough day," Woods later told a PGA Tour official after totalling 30 putts for the third successive round for his worst ever score at Muirfield Village, winding up joint 69th in the field of 72 - a distant 16 strokes off the pace.

"It was tough out there from beginning to end. I tried to fight back on the back nine, just didn't quite materialise."

Northern Irish world number two Rory McIlroy, who missed the cut here last year, also struggled, mixing two birdies with three bogeys and a double for a 75 to end the day at six over.

The average score in the third round was 73.603, more than a stroke-and-a-half over par, and would undoubtedly have been higher had the greens not been softened by overnight rain.