Auburn finished in third place at the NCAA Regional in Greensboro, N.C., last weekend to secure one of the 30 qualifying spots for the tournament. It is the Tigers' first appearance at the NCAA Championships since 2008. The tournament field includes 18 of the nation's Top 25 teams, and nine of the Top 10.
"I think there's definitely some favorites," said Auburn head coach Nick Clinard. "You've got to look at the East Coast and then you've got to look at Alabama—they've got three guys who could probably walk on to the PGA Tour and play here in the next few years.
"I think you've got to look at the Pac-12, probably the best conference in the country this year with California, Southern Cal and UCLA and Stanford, etc.," notes Clinard. "Getting to play out there on grasses they're familiar with, you've got to give them a little bit of a nod at this point. But if you get in the top eight, anything can happen in match play."
After teams compete in stroke play Tuesday through Thursday, an individual champion will be crowned and the top eight teams will move on to match play from Friday through Sunday.
Monday's practice round will be key for the Tigers as no Auburn player or coach has ever played the 7,279-yard, par-71 course at Riviera C.C., which has been the host site for the U.S. Open in 1948 and the PGA Championship in 1983 and 1995, among other PGA Tour events.
"I don't know a lot about it," said Clinard of the course. "I know a little bit about it from Jason Dufner. He's played out there over the years. He's a good friend of mine and he's kind of kept us in the loop like hole by hole.
"It's going to be a little bit different grasses, and there's a lot of history there," added the Auburn's coach. "If you're a history buff in the game of golf, it's going to be quite a thing for the kids to get to see."
While none of the current Tigers have played at Riviera, they will get some help in the practice round from Dufner, who is familiar with the course.
"Jason Dufner's going to come out for the practice round with us and give us some tips on where to hit it and all that, so that will be nice," said junior Dominic Bozzelli. "The course is pure. Just looking forward to getting out there."
Jason Dufner (right) gives instruction to the Tigers about the 14th hole at Riveria Country Club.
Though the stakes are much higher this week, the Tigers are going to approach the Championships like they would any other tournament, Bozzelli said.
"You can't really play defense in golf so you just focus on what you need to do," said the Pittsford, N.Y., native.
The Tigers can also draw upon the last four holes of the regional tournament where they played flawless golf, shooting eight-under-par.
"It's a different course, but still, if we ever get into a tough situation either in the 54-hole stroke play or the match play, we can always look back at that to get some confidence from and say ‘we've been there before, and we can do it again,'" said Bozzelli.
The Tigers will be paired with UCLA and USC in the first round on Tuesday with a tee time of 2:40 p.m. CST.