‘I like our chances’ – No. 1 Auburn readies for NCAA Championship run

Todd Drexler

CARLSBAD, Calif. – No. 1 Auburn men's golf looks to capture its seventh straight tournament title in the form of a national championship this week as the Tigers are one of 30 programs set to compete at the 2024 NCAA Championship May 24-29 at the Omni La Costa Champions Course in Carlsbad, California.
"We're very excited to get out to Carlsbad and get out on a golf course we've never seen before," Tigers head coach Nick Clinard said. "It should be a tough test, but we're looking forward to it. Our guys are full of confidence, and they love to compete. It's going to be a long week, but I like our chances if we go out there and play like athletes."
Auburn is the No. 1 overall seed this week and will begin Friday's opening round playing alongside No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 3 North Carolina. The group will go off the 10th tee beginning at 2 p.m. CT.
All 30 teams will duke it out in three rounds of stroke play Friday – Sunday. Following the third round, the field will be cut in half to the top 15 scoring squads who will play a fourth round Monday. After the completion of 72 holes of stroke play, the top eight teams will face off in match play with the quarterfinal and semifinal matches set for Tuesday and the championship finale slated for Wednesday.
Auburn rolls with its same lineup that has produced an SEC Championship and a regional championship in its previous two appearances. Senior J.M. Butler, juniors Carson Bacha and Brendan Valdes and freshman Josiah Gilbert and Jackson Koivun will start the week as the top five. Fifth year Alex Vogelsong will make the trip and be available to substitute into the lineup following the completion of any round.
"We know we have the team to get it done," Valdes said. "We're dogs. We know going into the final hole, final round, final shot that any five of us can produce when it matters."
This season, the Tigers have already faced 23 of their 29 NCAA Championship opponents and boast a 39-3-1 head-to-head record against them. Auburn has finished behind North Carolina and Oklahoma and has drawn with Tennessee.
A match play appearance this week for the Orange & Blue would be historic as in its previous 28 trips to the tournament, it has reached the match play cut just once. In 2018, Auburn rode the momentum of its SEC Championship victory to cruise to the program's first Final Four before falling to eventual national champion Oklahoma State in a tight, 3-2 match.
Auburn has concluded its past two seasons in 10th place nationally.
While the Tigers have yet to break through with a team national title, they do have a lone individual national champion in Chip Spratlin. In 1995, at the Ohio State University Club in Columbus, Ohio, Spratlin carded a 1-under 283 come out on top of a talented field that included a freshman by the name of Tiger Woods.
The seeding for this year's championship is No. 1 Auburn, No. 2 Vanderbilt, No. 3 North Carolina, No. 4 Tennessee, No. 5 Florida State, No. 6 Texas, No. 7 Virginia, No. 8 Texas Tech, No. 9 Oklahoma, No. 10 Arizona, No. 11 Illinois, No. 12 Florida, No. 13 Georgia Tech, No. 14 ETSU, No. 15 Cal-Berkeley, No. 16 Texas A&M, No. 17 New Mexico, No. 18 Oklahoma State, No. 19 Purdue, No. 20 Stanford, No. 21 Wake Forest, No. 22 Notre Dame, No. 23 Baylor, No. 24 Ohio State, No. 25 North Florida, No. 26 LSU, No. 27 SMU, No. 28 Clemson, No. 29 West Virginia and No. 30 Utah.
Golf Channel will provide live coverage of the tournament starting at 5 p.m. CT on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Live scoring can be tracked throughout the week at Golfstat.com.
Fans wishing to purchase tickets for the tournament should click here