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Saturday February 10, 2007Villegas Captures 36-Hole Lead At Gator Invitational

Gainesville, FL

Junior Manuel Villegas (Medellin, Colombia) posted a career-low 36-hole score of 135 (-5) at the SunTrust Gator Invitational on Saturday, placing himself atop the leader board and guiding the top-ranked Florida men’s golf team to a second-place standing after two rounds at University Golf Course. The Gators recorded a score of 569 (+9) on the day, leaving them just one stroke behind tournament-leader Wake Forest with 18 holes still to be contested.

 

“Manny’s play today kept us in the golf tournament,” Florida head coach Buddy Alexander said. “He’s been solid for us all year, and he’s one of the biggest things keeping this team from being a young, inexperienced group. It’s great to see him on top of the leader board.”

 

Villegas opened the day with a career-best 67 (-3) in the first round to take the 18-hole lead, registering three birdies and no bogeys. He was the only Gator in red numbers during the opening round, while sophomore Billy Horschel (Grant, Fla.), freshman Tyson Alexander (Gainesville, Fla.) and freshman Andres Echavarria (Medellin, Colombia) all shot a one-over 71 to send UF into the break with an even-par score of 280. The Gators’ opening-round total was good enough to put them in a first-place tie with Wake Forest at the break.

 

Villegas kept his hot hand going in the second round, rolling in birdies on three of his first eight holes and making the turn at three-under for the round. He gave back two strokes with bogeys on 12 and 14, but added another birdie on 15 – his seventh of the day – and finished with a two-under round of 68. Villegas will take the course on Sunday with a two-stroke lead over Florida State’s Jonas Blixt. His best career finish is a runner-up showing at the Inverness Invitational, UF’s first tournament of the 2006-07 season.

 

Alexander, whose first-round 71 was a career-best, contributed a two-over round of 72 in the afternoon, and finished the first day in a tie for 20th with a score of 143 (+3). He rolled in four birdies on the day, including two on his last three holes. After a second-round 74 (+4), Horschel will head into the final round in a tie for 29th with a score of 145 (+5). Echavarria will start his final 18 holes in a 37th-place tie after firing a 146 (+6) on Saturday, while sophomore Toby Ragland (Jacksonville, Fla.) shot a 151 (+11) over the first two rounds to find himself in a tie for 54th heading into the final day.

 

“We did some things today that I haven’t ever seen us do, and were a little sloppy out there,” Alexander said. “We can’t waste shots around the green if we expect to win the golf tournament. That being said, we battled today and showed that we aren’t going to fold when things aren’t going our way.”

 

Three Florida players found success on Saturday playing as individuals, led by junior Tyler Brown (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.) and sophomore Will Strickler (Charlottesville, Va.), who both finished the day with an even-par 140. Brown posted a first-round 69 to establish a career best, while Strickler bested his teammate by a stroke over the opening 18 holes, shooting a career-low 68. The duo will begin the final round on Sunday in a sixth-place tie, and freshman Tim McKenney (Scottsdale, Ariz.) will hit the course in a 20th-place tie after carding a score of 143 (+3) on Saturday.

 

Final-round competition will begin at 8 a.m. on Sunday, with tee times scheduled at nine-minute intervals. Live scoring can be found at www.golfstat.com, and via www.gatorzone.com.

 

Team Scores Through Round Two

Place

School

Score

1.

Wake Forest

280-288 = 568 (+8)

2.

FLORIDA

280-289 = 569 (+9)

3.

Georgia Southern

286-284 = 570 (+10)

4.

Florida State

284-287 = 571 (+11)

5.

Coastal Carolina

290-284 = 574 (+14)

6.

UAB

287-289 = 576 (+16)

7.

Georgia State

292-286 = 578 (+18)

8.

Tulsa

290-290 = 580 (+20)

9.

Ohio State

283-300 = 583 (+23)

10.

North Florida

293-292 = 585 (+25)

11.

Kentucky

295-293 = 588 (+28)

12.

LSU

296-295 = 591 (+31)

13.

UCF

297-297 = 594 (+34)

14.

Purdue

299-303 = 602 (+42)

 

Individual Top 10 Through Round Two

Place

Player (School)

Score

1.

MANUEL VILLEGAS (FLORIDA)

67-68 = 135 (-5)

2.

Jonas Blixt (Florida State)

70-67 = 137 (-3)

T3.

Zack Byrd (Coastal Carolina)

71-67 = 138 (-2)

T3.

Bryan Jones (Georgia Southern)

70-68 = 138 (-2)

5.

Brendan Gielow (Wake Forest)

71-68 = 139 (-1)

T6.

TYLER BROWN (FLORIDA - I)

69-71 = 140 (E)

T6.

Michael O’Neal (North Florida)

69-71 = 140 (E)

T6.

Webb Simpson (Wake Forest)

70-70 = 140 (E)

T6.

WILL STRICKLER (FLORIDA - I)

68-72 = 140 (E)

10.

Brett Myers (Tulsa)

71-70 = 141 (+1)

 

Florida Results Through Round Two

Place

Player (School)

Score

1.

Manuel Villegas

67-68 = 135 (-5)

T6.

Tyler Brown (I)

69-71 = 140 (E)

T6.

Will Strickler (I)

68-72 = 140 (E)

T20.

Tyson Alexander

71-72 = 143 (+3)

T20.

Tim McKenney (I)

72-71 = 143 (+3)

T29.

Billy Horschel

71-74 = 145 (+5)

T37.

Andres Echavarria

71-75 = 146 (+6)

T54.

Toby Ragland

75-76 = 151 (+11)

 

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