UNC-Greensboro (+18), Colorado (+19), New Mexico (+21) and Louisville (+26) round out the top 10 through 36 holes at the Auburn University Club. With the top five teams advancing to the NCAA Championships at Prairie Dunes Wichita, Kan., Coach Nick Clinard said he's proud of the way his team fought on a tough day for scoring Friday.
"It was tough," Clinard said. "I don't know if I have ever seen the wind blow like this today. The guys hung in there. They got off to a rough start but played solid and then eight and nine gave us fits again today. We've got to play those two holes better tomorrow. Those are going to be key for us. Hopefully they come out with a good attitude tomorrow ready to rock and roll."
The thorn in the side for the Auburn team through the first two days has definitely been holes eight and nine. Counting nine strokes over par on those two holes alone, the Tigers would be in the hunt if they were able to cut down on the mistakes.
That has been the plan of success for both senior Niclas Carlsson and freshman Will Long through 36 holes this week. Firing a round of 70 (-2) on Thursday, Carlsson started his round with 14 consecutive pars on Friday before making a birdie on the tough 15th hole. Hitting his tee shot into an un-playable lie on the par-five 16th, Carlsson was forced to take a drop, but he recovered to make a bogey on his way to an even-par round of 72.
Niclas Carlsson is primed to make a run at the individual title
Long has also been solid for the Tigers in his first two career NCAA Tournament rounds. He followed up a 74 on Thursday to shoot a 73 on Friday. Clinard said that's just par for the course for his talented freshman based on what he's seen this season.
"I tell you what, he's tough," Clinard said. "He has no fear. Nothing scares him. He wants to compete. I always call him ‘Secretariat' because when he's warming up he hits five balls and he's ready to go.
"The wind really played a factor today," Long added. "Par was a really good score today. You just had to try to keep it in the fairway and play conservative. The aggressive play, you really couldn't do that today. We just have to go out tomorrow and do the same thing we did today, play a solid round and we should have a good chance."
Daniel Stringfellow (73), Jake Mondy (74), and Matt Gilchrest (77) rounded out the scoring on the day for the Tigers as they try to catch a red-hot Alabama team on Saturday. With four of the top eight players in the field through two days, No. 1 Alabama has put itself in position to be tough to beat in the final round.
Individually, Kelby Burton from Kennesaw State had the round of the tournament on Friday with a 67 that featured eight birdies, one bogey, and a double bogey. He's currently four-under par for the tournament and tied with Cory Whitsett from Alabama. Austin Peay's Marco Iten is in third at minus-three with Carlsson and former U.S. Open star Beau Hossler from Texas tied for fourth at two-under par.
Auburn, Alabama and Kennesaw State (coached by former Auburn golfer Jay Moseley) will begin their rounds at 8:40 a.m. on Saturday.