Clutch finish sees Tigers take fourth after two days of NCAA Championship

Todd Drexler -

CARLSBAD, Calif. – No. 1 Auburn found the late spark it needed during Saturday's round two of the 2024 NCAA Championship, going bogey-free and 6-under over its final four holes on the Omni La Costa Champions Couse to hang on to fourth place at 10-over heading into the third round.
"We got off to a decent start, then we really struggled there in the middle. This golf course has some teeth to it," Tigers head coach Nick Clinard said. "We hit a lot of bad shots. It was poor execution more than anything. We can't get too greedy out here. The guys showed a lot of grit and heart coming down the stretch though. We're going to need more of that."
For the third round of stroke play, Auburn is set to play alongside North Carolina and Ohio State, teeing off the 10th hole at 9:02 a.m. CT. Following the round, the field will be cut in half as the top 15 teams will play a fourth round Monday.  
The Tigers trail the leader, No. 9 Virginia, by nine and have a 14-shot cushion on the projected cutline.
After a slow start to the day, the Tigers finished on a high thanks to clutch birdies from juniors Carson Bacha and Brendan Valdes and freshman Josiah Gilbert in the home stretch. All three men punctuated their rounds with a birdie on the par-5 18th hole.
Auburn matched its round one score with another 5-over 293.
Freshman sparkplug Jackson Koivun leads the Orange & Blue lineup through 36 holes at 1-under-par. A three birdie, three bogey day saw the rookie card an even 72. He has carded 32 of his 38 rounds at par or better this season.
Gilbert bounced back from a tough outing in round one with an impressive 73 (+1) Saturday. A more consistent day of play saw him make 13 pars and two birdies. Valdes also carded a 73 (+1) and added four birdies of his own.
Bacha shot 75 (+3). He broke out of a mid-round slump with a birdie-birdie-par-birdie finish. Senior J.M. Butler shot 5-over 77.