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Smith's 69 lifts him to 2nd place

The Blue Devils played their best round of the Puerto Rico Classic Tuesday, but it was not enough to help the team climb up the leaderboard.

After having three players at least three under par at some point during the round, Duke had some minor struggles and finished with an even-par 288. The Blue Devils ended the tournament in seventh, exactly where they started the final 18 holes.

“We had a really good round going, but we let some strokes get away,” head coach Rod Myers said. “I’m certainly a little disappointed by that, but overall we played a solid round.”

Nathan Smith finished in a tie for second place at seven under par after firing a 69 in the final round. The 42nd-ranked junior was the only Duke golfer to be under par each day.

“I think this tournament was one of my better performances—three rounds under par felt pretty good,” Smith said.

Smith had success on the par 5s Tuesday, birdieing the 11th and eagling the 13th with a 15-foot putt. He was as low as four under before bogeying a par 3 to drop to three under.

Even with his low scoring, Smith finished five strokes back of the champion Alejandro Canizares of Arizona State. The 2002 NCAA Champion took home the trophy with a 12-under-par performance, firing three rounds in the 60s on the par-72 course.

“It’s pretty darn impressive to play really well every single round,” Myers said of Canizares. “He’s terrific.”

Duke also got consistent play from its second and third finishers, Ryan Blaum and Michael Quagliano. Blaum entered the day at even par and completed his round in the same place, earning a tie for 18th.

Quagliano carded his third consecutive 73 to finish his first tournament of the spring season at three over par. The freshman was as low as three under, but a triple-bogey brought him back to even par before falling to one over.

“It’s awesome that he shot three 73s, but I expect that out of him,” Smith said. “I know he has much lower scores in him, and I think we’ll see that from him later this season and throughout his Duke career.”

For the second week in a row, the Blue Devils struggled to deliver a strong fourth score. Freshman Bryce Mueller played solid rounds, Myers said, but had a few too many errors, such as a bogey on his final hole Tuesday.

Duke has almost three weeks before its next tournament, March 19 in Statesboro, Ga., and Myers plans to use the time off to solidify the bottom of his lineup.

“I definitely think we may look at giving some different guys an opportunity,” he said. “We just want to continue to work on getting better, and hopefully we’ll make some nice improvements before our next tournament.”

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