Entering the day in fourth place just four shots off the lead held by UCLA, Auburn was hoping to make a run at it's first ever team title. Instead they fell behind as Clemson and Oklahoma State shot lights out to break away from the pack. Clemson used four solid rounds to post a one under par total and it stands at +24 with one round remaining to play. Just behind Clemson is Oklahoma State at +25. The homestanding Cowboys were two-over-par on Thursday's round and set themselves up for a shootout for the title.
That's because nobody else could keep pace with the two coming down the stretch. Auburn kept its hopes alive early with a solid start to the round. Going out at +2 after the first nine holes, things seemed to be setting up for the Tigers to be in the thick of things in the final round, but it wasn't to be.
In the final nine holes of the day Auburn made five double bogeys and six bogeys and finished +11 on the back nine alone. By contrast, Clemson played the back nine at three under par on the day and that was the difference. Auburn is currently in sixth place and trails Clemson by 14 shots at +39 following a +13 round on Thursday. The Tigers will be looking for their best ever team finish with a good round on Friday. Auburn placed seventh in the 1994 NCAA Championship.
The bright spot continues to be Alexander City's Lee Williams. Showing an all-around golf game needed to compete at a tough course like Karsten Creek, Williams again had a solid day on the links with a one-under par round of 71 despite a double bogey on the 16th hole coming down the stretch. Now four under par for the tournament, Williams has a five shot lead over both John Holmes of Kentucky and Chris Stroud of Lamar University.
Williams is trying to become just the second men's golfer in Auburn history to win the NCAA Individual title. In 1995 Chip Spratlin shot rounds of 67-71-70-75 on the Scarlet Course at Ohio State to earn the title.
Coming through with the round that he has been waiting on for the last two tournaments, Tyler McKeever shot a 71 to help Auburn's cause, but it was the lack of consistency that doomed the Tigers on Thursday. Jonathan Dismuke fired a 77, which would have been fine as the fourth score, but neither Jay Mundy nor Will Claxton could find the range in round three.
Starting out solid at just one over par after nine holes, things fell apart for Mundy on the back nine. Carding four double bogeys and one bogey in the final nine holes, he finished with a disappointing 82. Claxton never got untracked the entire day and shot an 86 to have his score dropped from counting on Thursday.
In the team competition UCLA and Florida follow Oklahoma State in third place after a +13 round on Thursday by the Bruins and a nine over par round by the Gators has them at +35 for three days, 10 shots behind the Cowboys. Wake Forest (+36) is just ahead of Auburn with UNLV (+44), USC (+45), Augusta State (+47) and Arizona State (+47) rounding out the top 10. Making the final cut of 18 were North Carolina State (+48), North Carolina (+51), Washington (+51), Wichita State (+52), Georgia Tech (+54), Georgia (+54), Arizona (+54) and Texas (+55).