While the team played solid golf all day with the exception of 17, it was Williams who carried the torch on Tuesday. Firing a three-under par round of 69, which was the best of the day, Williams has Auburn in a position to contend for its first ever national team title in golf.
"I didn't miss a fairway the whole day with my driver," said Williams. "I missed a couple with irons, actually, on the shorter par fours. I struggled on them a little bit, had a couple of good up and downs on the holes you're supposed to make birdies on, but I putted well and it wasn't too hard of a day for me. I hit a lot of greens, a lot of good shots, and I'm just happy to be in at 69. I'm really proud of myself for the way that I played."
Lee Williams leads the field after the first day of play in the 2003 NCAA Championship.
That will only happen if Williams can continue to get solid play behind him, which was the case from both Jonathan Dismuke and Will Claxton. Shooting a 74, Dismuke did exactly what Coach Mike Griffin said his team needed to do to come away a winner at one of the nation's toughest courses. The same is true of Claxton, who survived a round where he had a triple bogey and three other bogeys to shoot a very respectable 75 on a day when the field averaged just under 80 shots per round.
Unfortunately for Auburn, what could have been a stellar day turned into just a solid one on the 17th hole. Standing at +6 going into the hole, the Tigers dropped out of the Top 10 by the time they left when both Tyler McKeever and Jay Munday made nines on the 464-yard par four hole. The score dropped McKeever to +9 and he finished with an 81. Mundy struggled all day and fired a very uncharacteristic 87 to have his score dropped.
The 17th hole wasn't just a house of horrors for the Tigers, but essentially the entire field. The hole played to an average of 4.97 on the day and yielded just four birdies.
Where Auburn made its shots back was on the par fives. Just like players try to do in major championships on the PGA Tour, when you play tough courses you better make up ground on the par fives. Playing that strategy to perfection, Auburn was seven under par for the day on those holes to push them to the top of the leader board following the first round of action.
Tied with Auburn at the top are perennial power and host team Oklahoma State with All-American Hunter Mahan. Also tied are Clemson and North Carolina State. Southern California is one shot behind at +12 with Duke (+13), Florida (+14), UCLA (+15), Wake Forest (+16) and Illinois (+16) all within easy striking distance. Minnesota (+17), Arizona State (+18) and Texas (+18) round out the top 13 after the first day.
"Lee is playing very well right now," said Auburn coach Mike Griffin. "He was trying very hard for that bogey-free round, but 17 got him, too. Four birdies on this course in these conditions, and driving the ball well keeping the ball in play on the proper side of the hole, that's a good round. Sixty-nine is an excellent round of golf today.
"Lee's not the longest player here, but he's very cerebral. He thinks his way around the golf course and has a great short game. He's playing to his strengths. He's probably not going to go for a lot of par 5s, but he's going to have a lot of birdie putts because he's a very good wedge player."