Tigers Hold One-Stroke Lead

Matt Hendrix fired a three-under par 69, while D.J. Trahan and Jack Ferguson both had even par rounds of 72 to lead Clemson to a 287 team score and a one-stroke lead heading into the final round of Friday's NCAA Tournament at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, OK.

Clemson has a one-shot lead over host school Oklahoma State and will be paired with the Cowboys in the final round. It will be the fourth straight round Clemson has been paired with the Cowboys, a nine-time NCAA Champion.

This is the first time in school history that Clemson has held the lead heading into the final round of the NCAA Tournament . Clemson has won five tournaments this year, and a sixth would set a Clemson record for a single season. A victory on Friday would be Clemson's first NCAA championship in golf and it would be the schools first title in any sport since Clemson won the NCAA championship in men's soccer in 1987.

Clemson stands at +24 heading into the final round, a one shot lead over Oklahoma State. UCLA and Florida are tied for third at +35, while Wake Forest stands at +36. Auburn is at +39. Clemson had the best round of the tournament, the only under par team round, with its 287 on Thursday. Wake Forest and Oklahoma State had 290 scores for the second best rounds of the event. Clemson leads the nation in stroke average in the final round this year.

The tournament committee cut the field to 18 teams after the third round, a decision it made on Thursday morning. They had not planned on making a cut. The Tigers will tee off at mid-afternoon. Scores may be monitored through Clemson's internet site (clemsontigers.com).

Hendrix had a consistent third round with his 69, a nine-shot improvement over his second round score. It was his 12th round in the 60s this year, his second in an NCAA championship this year. He had a 67 in the second round on Wednesday. His round on Thursday included five birdies and two bogeys. He started the day on the right foot with a birdie on the first hole, then added birdies on nine, 13, 15 and 16. His birdie on 13 was a 25-foot putt from off the green, while the birdie on the par three 15th came from 15 feet away. His birdie on 16 was from just eight feet. He bogeyed the difficult 17th hole after hitting his second shot in the rough right of the green.

"I played real solid today,." Said Hendrix, who was named to the Verizon All-District III Academic team last week. "I made a few putts that got things going. Today's round was a real confidence booster. I was discouraged after the first two days with my scores (76-78), but not with the way I was hitting the ball. Today I didn't miss a fairway until 14. There are some birdies out there, we just have to take advantage of them."

Head Coach Larry Penley was also pleased with Hendrix play on Thursday. "He is a great ball striker and it is just a matter of time until he broke loose," said Penley. "He made a few putts early and avoided the big numbers. The first two rounds, he had a double and a triple and that really hurt him. But, other than those few holes, he was really playing well."

Hendrix gained considerable support from his teammates, especially counters Trahan, Ferguson and Ben Duncan. Trahan showed great resilience as he came back from a three over par start to finish at even par 72. He was three over standing on the ninth tee, then birdied the 624 yard hole. He made a typical Trahan run with birdies on 14, 15 and 16. He hit his tee shot in the difficult par three 15th hole eight feet from the pin, the made the putt. He made a putt from similar length on the 16th.

Ferguson had another consistent round, his 10th round at par this season and his 27th at par or better. He was playing in front of a crowd of nearly 1000 people most of the day, as he was paired with Oklahoma State's Hunter Mahan, the number-one ranked player in the nation and the hometown favorite. Ferguson defeated Mahan by a stroke, even with Mahan making an eagle on the final hole.

A key hole was the par five 14th hole. Ferguson was on the green in three, 25 feet from the cup and Mahan was on in two with a four-foot eagle putt. Ferguson rolled his putt in for birdie, then Mahan missed his eagle putt and finished with a birdie.

Ben Duncan had his second consecutive terrific round. He had nine-hole scores of 37 to finish at 74, his second straight day as a counter from the number-five position in the lineup. He has now counted in five of his last seven national tournament rounds. He had six bogeys and four birdies on the day, including a birdie on the 18th, the only Clemson counter who had a birdie on 18. His round also included the killing of a snake (with a four-iron) that had worked its way into harms way near the 16th tee.

Gregg Jones, who had counted the first two days with rounds of 75, shot a 78 on Thursday, but finished with a birdie on 18th, a hole that should give him momentum heading into Friday. He entered this tournament as Clemson's career leader in stroke average in NCAA play, given two tournament appearances. His had a double bogey on the first hole that put him in difficult position at the outset.

Overall, Larry Penley was pleased with his team's play and feels the squad is ready to take on Oklahoma State on its home course on Friday."We played real solid today. It wasn't our best start, but we played holes 4-16 real well. We had nine birdies between 12 and 16 and that really got us going. Oklahoma State made things happen on the last hole, so give them credit. I'm proud of the team. They really hung in there.

"I told the guys it was time to quit complaining, quit making excuses and find a way to get it done. We are not doing anything different. We were focussed today.

"I told the guys we just need to calm down and realize there is a lot more golf to be played. We have got to go out, play solid and stay with our plan on Friday. Yesterday, I told the guys they have to make strong decisive decisions, even if they are wrong. We have to be committed to what we are doing."

"Friday should be a lot of fun. How many guys have a chance to play for the National Championship on a great golf course, against the home team? This will be like a PGA event for us. We appreciate all the people coming out to support the tournament. Remember, we are partial to orange."

Clemson Scores
Jack Ferguson 73-76-72 221 13th

Matt Hendrix 76-78-69 223 20th

D.J. Trahan 75-78-72 225 30th

Gregg Jones 75-75-78 228 40th

Ben Duncan 85-73-74 232 73rd

Team 299-302-287 888 1ST

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