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Blue Devils 'sloppy' on Championship's final day

After two days of strong winds and high scores, the conditions calmed Tuesday in the final round of the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship.

The serene weather at Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., set up well for low-scoring rounds, but Duke could not take advantage and finished the tournament in 10th place.

“I think we could have won this tournament,” sophomore Jake Grodzinsky said. “But we just wasted a bunch of shots and played very sloppy golf. A combination of a little bad golf and a little bad luck hurt us a lot.”

The 11th-ranked Blue Devils ended the weekend with a mediocre final round, shooting two-over while failing to capitalize on their opportunities. No. 9 Ryan Blaum and No. 38 Nathan Smith—the team’s only nationally-ranked players—both carded two-over-par rounds.

Blaum putted poorly during his five-bogey round. After parring each of his first nine holes, Blaum three-putted four times over the final nine holes. At five over par for the tournament, Blaum finished in a tie for 15th place, dropping from 10th place at the start of the day.

After a weak round Monday, Smith started steadily Tuesday before bogeying his fifth hole and double-bogeying his sixth. He recovered quickly, however, birdieing three holes on which he had been three-over par through the first two rounds.

“When you’ve got two all-Americans, you’re not going to beat anyone when they both shoot 74’s,” head coach Rod Myers said of Blaum and Smith. “They played solidly, but double-bogeys killed us. This golf course doesn’t allow you to do that.”

Duke’s supporting cast did its best to compensate for its leaders. Grodzinsky paced Duke, notching the team’s second under-par round of the tournament at one under. He struggled early in the final round before recovering to birdie his last four holes.

“A turnaround like that is big for us,” Myers said. “It showed us that Jake can be a big horse for us. We need some guys to step up who think they can play as well as Ryan and Nate. A few more guys like that and we’ll be tough to beat.”

Freshman Bryce Mueller sprained his wrist Monday but played well Tuesday in spite of the injury, firing a one-over 73.

“Bryce’s performance was really solid,” Blaum said. “Playing on a tough golf course with a nagging injury is not easy. He really showed some heart and stepped it up for the team.”

Junior Alex Wilson had the worst week of any Blue Devil, shooting 22 over par to put him in 82nd place out of 90. He did not record a birdie in his final 25 holes of action. In response, Myers said freshman Michael Quagliano will be in the starting lineup Feb. 27 when the team begins the Puerto Rico Classic.

The only team under par for the day was Florida, the eventual champion, which shot eight under par for the day.

Florida junior Matt Every took the individual championship by one stroke at one-under par, winning despite a late charge by second-place finisher Tyler Brown of North Florida.

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