Eugene, Ore.--Preparing to play in their fifth consecutive NCAA Men’s Golf Championships, one of only five teams in the country to stake that claim, the Auburn Tigers and Coach Nick Clinard are seeded ninth this week and are paired with Vanderbilt and Arizona State in the first round on Friday at Eugene Country Club.
Coming off a fifth-place finish in the Tuscaloosa Regional, Clinard noted his team is in a good place as the Tigers prepare to face the top teams in college golf this weekend hoping to advance to match play.
“I think the golf course really suits us well,” Clinard told Inside the Auburn Tigers. “You have to drive the ball well and we’ve been good drivers of the golf ball all year long. The hardest thing to do is get here. There are 320 programs in men’s golf in Division I and now we’re down to 30, but I feel pretty good about it.
"Our games are in good shape," he said. "We have to play a first round, we haven’t really done that in a couple of months. We’ll be ready to go come Friday morning.”
Despite the fact that the Tigers are one of the top seeds and have talented golfers in positions 1-5, including first-team All-SEC selection Michael Johnson, Clinard said his players are hungry because they know their best golf is still ahead of them.
“We’ve been in the Top 10 in the country the entire year and we’ve been number one,” Clinard pointed out. “We haven’t played our best golf the last two months, but I think their games are pretty sharp. We’re going to play loose and free and see what happens. There is no pressure on us. We’re not a number one seed, we’re a nine seed, so we’ll see what happens.”
The teams will play 18 holes on Friday, 18 on Saturday and again on Sunday. After that the top eight teams advance to a match play format to determine the national championship, which was won by LSU last year.
Clinard decided to take the pressure off his team even more this week when the Tigers made a stop in California on the way to Oregon to play golf at both Pebble Beach and Cypress Point, two of the most iconic golf courses in the world. While the trip gave his team a chance to get used to a different climate, different types of grass, and even the time change, Clinard said most of all it gave them an experience they will never forget.
“First of all it’s a treat any time you can play one of the best three courses in the world,” Clinard said. “It’s a lifetime memory for the kids and ultimately that’s what it’s all about.”
With nine SEC teams in the final 30 that will take to the course this weekend, Clinard said having familiar faces around should help his team make the transition to a new time zone and a different feeling golf course from what they are used to. In the end it’s all about performing and he’s ready to see his team put it all together for one final run in 2016.
“You’ve got a couple of teams used to the grasses here like Oregon and even Illinois, but also teams like Stanford and teams like that,” Clinard said. “We’re going to use our practice round and do our homework. I feel good about the guys. They are loose and free.”
Auburn will tee off Friday at 1:15 p.m. Pacific time (3:15 p.m. CDT) off the 10th tee and will be paired with Arizona State and Vanderbilt in the first two rounds.