Tigers In A Battle For Top 10 Finish

Auburn has a two-shot advantage over 11th place Georgia State heading into the last day of the 2003 East Regional.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn men's golf team finds itself in a very familiar position heading into Saturday's final round of the 2003 NCAA East Regional at the Auburn University Club. With an overall score of 582 (+6), the Tigers are in a tie for ninth place with Vanderbilt after day two and have a two-shot lead over 11th place Georgia State in the race for qualifying for the national championships later this month in Stillwater, Okla.

The top 10 teams at the regional advance to the championship and that leaves Auburn in a very shaky position with just one round left to play. Auburn's position would be very tough if it wasn't for the play of Lee Williams on Friday. On fire after struggling the first few holes, he shot a 66 to carry the Tigers on a day when nobody else could get anything going and the team finished at two over par. Coach Mike Griffin said his team just hasn't put it together so far this week.

"We seem to figure out some kind of a way to put ourselves in a position like this," Griffin said following the round. "I'm extremely proud of Lee Williams and a 66 that kept us in it today in spite of some other very poor golf. I know our players are quite disappointed, and rightfully so. We didn't play a whole lot of good golf other than Lee Williams today. I think the other players owe him an opportunity to get him some cushion tomorrow and come back and play some good golf."

While Williams was tearing up the golf course, his teammates couldn't get anything going and none finished better than par on the day. Jay Mundy, who shot a 75 on Thursday, came back with an even par round on Friday, but that would be the end of the good news for Auburn. Will Claxton, even coming into the day, shot a 75 and Jonathan Dismuke fired a 77 to fall to +6 on the week.

After playing his worst round of the year Thursday with an 81, Tyler McKeever was poised to show Friday why he's Auburn's number one player. Instead he had to make a birdie on 18 to finish tied with Dismuke at 77. Following his team's round on Friday, Griffin said that he feels like his team is in good shape heading into Saturday's final round.

Tyler McKeever studies a birdie putt as he walks to the 18th green.

"What can I say about Tyler," Griffin said. "He's our number one player and he hasn't cut us a single shot yet. We're probably very fortunate to be where we are when you're best player hasn't helped you yet. Here we are and we've made our bed and are staring down the muzzle at a tie for ninth of 10th. It's not a position with which I am unfamiliar. That's been a part of our heritage. We have to make it exciting."

To accomplish the goal of making it to the championships, Auburn needs a big round from McKeever on Saturday. Williams did that on Friday. Firing his best round since last fall when he had a 64, Wiliams kept Auburn in the hunt for Oklahoma and said it was all about keeping it in play during the round.

"I just hit the ball on the greens within 10 feet pretty much all day," Williams said. "I made a lot of those and just didn't make any mistakes really. Other than a stupid bogey on the fifth hole, I played pretty solid. The first two holes I didn't hit it too good, but I made a birdie on four and that kind of settled me down. I just started playing good and just kept it going. I really got comfortable out there. When you're comfortable you can play good."

Leading the pack at the regional is Clemson, who shot a dominating 277 (-11) on Friday to bring their leading total to –14. Georgia Tech (-9) follows with Tennessee (-4), Florida (+2), Wake Forest (+2), Duke (+2), Augusta State (+4), South Carolina (+5) and Vanderbilt (+6) rounding out the top 10 teams with Auburn. Also in contention going into the final day are Georgia State (+8) and College of Charleston (+11). No other team is within seven shots of the Tigers entering Saturday's action.

The tournament can be followed live on www.golfstat.com.


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