Sophomore Kyle Cottam made six birdies on the way to a team best one-under-par 71 to lead Clemson to an eighth-place team standing after three rounds of the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship at The Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Clemson now advances as one of 15 teams into the final round of stroke play on Monday.
After Monday’s fourth round of stroke play an individual national champion will be crowned and the top eight teams will advance to the single elimination match play tournament that will determine the national champion. The quarterfinals and semifinals of match play are scheduled for Tuesday morning and afternoon, respectively, with the national championship match set for Wednesday.
Monday’s action will be televised by The Golf Channel between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. The network will also broadcast all three rounds of match play on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Oklahoma State has a commanding 25-shot lead after three rounds of stroke play and the Cowboys look to be the number-one seed once the match play schedule begins. Texas and Stanford are tied for second at 877, while Oklahoma is fourth at 880. Wake Forest is fifth at 881 and Vanderbilt is sixth at 882. Texas A&M is seventh at 884 and Clemson is eighth at 892.
With its eighth place standing, Clemson is considered the cutline entering the fourth round.
Also making the cut for Monday’s play are unranked SMU (893), TCU (894), Ohio State (895), Pepperdine (896), Auburn (898), California (899) and Southern California (900). This is the second straight year Clemson has made the cut for the fourth round, one of just seven teams that can make that claim. The Tigers are joined on the list by Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt, Oklahoma, Auburn, Texas A&M and Texas.
This is the 11th year of the match play format in determining the NCAA Champion. Clemson has not made the final eight since the format began in 2009.
Clemson was 12th after three rounds last year, six shots out of eighth place, so this is the best Clemson has ranked entering the fourth round of stroke play.
Cottam’s 71 tied for the low round by a Clemson golfer at this year’s national championship, as Bryson Nimmer had the same score on Saturday. Cottam’s round included six birdies, four on putts of less than five feet, and two others on putts of 45 and 20 feet.
Cottam has a score of 217 after 54 holes, tied for 11th in the field of 156 golfers. He is tied for low ACC golfer with Lee Detmer of Wake Forest.
“The key for me has been the mindset,” said Cottam, a sophomore from Knoxville, Tenn. “You have to keep your cool on this course because you can get in a streak of bogeys, but there are some birdie holes. You just have to stay patient and get ready of the next shot.”
Cottam had not had Clemson’s best score in a team round all year entering the NCAA Regional. Now he has been Clemson’s best player in three of the six NCAA Tournament rounds. “I could not be more proud of Kyle,” said Head Coach Larry Penley. “He is hitting his irons well, but the key has been keeping his tee shot in play. He has done a great job of focusing on targets.”
While Penley is pleased with Clemson’s standing entering the fourth round, he knows the team must improved to reach the final eight on Tuesday. “A big key today was our performance on the par three holes. We made seven twos and that is extraordinary. I stay at the par three holes much of the round so I saw many birdies today.
“We still have too many big scores and we have to eliminate them if we are going to advance. We need to be patient on this golf course. We can’t force things.”
One player who has not forced things is freshman Jacob Bridgeman who had a 75 on Sunday. He joins Cottam as the only Tigers to shoot 75 or better in all three rounds thus far. He stands at 223 after 54 holes, good enough for 43rd place, second best among Clemson golfers.
All-American Bryson Nimmer shot a 74 on Sunday, the second best Tiger on the day, as he had three birdies and five bogeys. “Bryson was a little aggressive today firing at some very difficult flags and that led to a couple of bogeys. But he has played well on this difficult golf course.”
Few expected Clemson to be in this position without Nimmer playing at the top of the Clemson scores. But that has been the came with many of the teams at this tournament. Of the top eight teams through three rounds, only Stanford has had its number-one player rank as its best player thus far.
William Nottingham had four birdies on Sunday and his score of 78 counted for the first time in the tournament. Colby Patton was playing solid until he made an eight on a par-four seventh hole, his 16th hole of the day, and that led to a non-counting score of 80. Patton’s 74 in the first round tied for the best by a Tiger on opening day.
The Blessings Golf Club
Team Standings after 54 Holes
(Top 15 of 30 teams Advance to Fourth Round)
- Oklahoma State 852, 2. Texas and Stanford 877, 4. Oklahoma 880, 5. Wake Forest 881 6. Vanderbilt 882 7. Texas A&M 884, 8. Clemson 892 9. SMU 893, 10. TCU 894, 11. Ohio State 895, 12. Pepperdine 896, 13. Auburn 898, 14. California 899, 15. Southern California 900. 16. Arizona State 901, 17. South Carolina 902, 18. Georgia Tech 903, 19. North Carolina 904. 20. Liberty and UNLV 906, 22. North Florida and LSU 907, 24. Georgia 911, 25. Duke 912, 26. Georgia Southern 913, 27. Baylor and Illinois 915, 29. Louisville 932, 30. BYU 938.
- Kyle Cottam 74-72-71/217; 43. Jacob Bridgeman 75-73-75/224; 53. Bryson Nimmer 79-71-74/224; 96. Colby Patton 74-76-80/ 230; 139. William Nottingham 84-77-78/239.