NCAA Golf (copy)

Texas A&M junior golfer Brandon Smith, pictured competing at the NCAA Bryan Regional in 2018, and senior Chandler Phillips both shot 2-under 70 to lead the Aggies in the second round of the NCAA Championships on Saturday at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The 17th-ranked Texas A&M men’s golf team tied for the second-best score in the second round of the NCAA Championships, shooting 1-under 287 to move into third Saturday at Blessings Golf Club.

The Aggies are at 7-over 583 for the tournament, five strokes behind second-place Stanford. Top-ranked Oklahoma State shot a 12-under 276 on Saturday and holds a 12-stroke lead heading into the third round. Auburn (586) is fourth with No. 5 Texas (588) in fifth and No. 6 Oklahoma (592) in sixth. Third-ranked Wake Forest, Ohio State and California are tied for seventh at 593.

The field of 30 will be trimmed to 15 after the third round Sunday, and the top eight after Monday’s round will advance to match play. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be Tuesday with the finals Wednesday.

“This golf course is so tough and demanding,” A&M head coach J.T. Higgins said. “It’s going to test your emotional stability, your mental fortitude and your physical talents. If any one of those is a weakness, it’s going to be exposed. The guys have really stepped up and been superb in all areas, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. They played an under-par round in the afternoon on this golf course, which is pretty spectacular.”

Junior Brandon Smith and senior Chandler Phillips both carded 2-under 70s in the second round to lead the Aggies.

Smith is shooting even 144 through two rounds and holds a share of ninth. He birdied three of his first five holes on the way to a 2-under front nine, then birdied No. 15 before a bogey on No. 16.

Phillips bounced back from an 6-over first round, moving up 50 spots on the leaderboard into a tie for 37th. Phillips birdied the first two holes and got to 4-under with birdies on No. 10 and No. 13, but he stumbled with a double bogey on No. 17.

Sophomore Walker Lee is tied for 16th at 1-over 145, and freshman Sam Bennett, a Madisonville alumnus, is tied for 23rd one stroke behind Lee. Junior Dan Erickson (153) is tied for 89th.

The Aggies will tee off the third round with Oklahoma State and Stanford at 6:50 a.m. Sunday.

“We have to keep it up,” Higgins said. “There are so many good teams here, and everyone is getting more comfortable with the golf course. So we’ll start to see lower and lower scores as the week goes on, but it will be nice to have a head start.”

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