June 2, 2000
Opelika, AL-Freshman D.J. Trahan fired a four-under par 68 and junior Jani Saari had a three-under 69 to lead Clemson to a record 277 team score in the third round of the NCAA golf tournament at Grand National Country Club in Opelika, AL. Juniors John Engler and Lucas Glover added 70s for Clemson.
Clemson’s 277 team score set a school record for lowest round vs. par in a single NCAA Tournament round in history. The previous best was a 278 in the second and third rounds at Albuquerque, NM in 1998. However, the scores were very low on Friday and Clemson failed to gain in the team standings. The Tigers, who were tied for ninth with three other teams entering Friday’s play, are now ninth alone heading into Saturday’s final round.
If Clemson holds that position on Saturday and finishes in the top 10 it would give Larry Penley’s program its fourth straight top 10 national finish. It would be the first time in 21 years that a Clemson sport has finished in the top 10 in the nation in at least four straight years. The Clemson soccer team finished in the top 10 eight straight years between 1972-79.
“We played the way we expected to play in this tournament,” said Penley, who is coaching the Tigers in the NCAA national tournament for the 17th straight year. “We were more aggressive and played like we had a will to succeed today. I guess the rest of the field felt the same way, because we didn’t make up much ground.
“We had a better game plan today. We drove the ball much better and made some birdies. We still left some birdies out there, we can go lower and that is what we will try to do tomorrow.
“Our goal for Saturday is to finish in the top five. That is a realistic goal. The way Texas and Oklahoma State are playing, I just don’t see them coming back to the field.
“D.J. Trahan played well today. He held it together and finished strong with two birdies in his final three holes. That was a key for us today, we finally finished strong. We had been struggling at the end all week. Jani Saari was outstanding. He always seems to be a counter for us, especially in big tournaments.”
Trahan’s round included an eagle on the par five 12th hole. He hit his drive 380 yards, then hit a seven iron to within 15 feet of the pin, then made the putt, his second eagle on that hole this week. He later birdied the 14th hole to go to three under. On the front nine, his second nine of the day, it was a par on the fifth hole that was the key.
Trahan, the longest hitter on the Clemson team, hit a drive into the woods on the par four , 423 yard hole and could not find his ball. However, his drive went 380 yards, so he was able to drop just 40 yards from the green. “That was a key for me, getting a par on a hole when I lost a ball,” said Trahan. “I was able to chip it out through a couple of trees to within a few feet and made the putt. That held it together for me.”
Trahan then birdied the par five seventh home and birdied the ninth hole, his final hole of the day. On the ninth, he hit his approach with a lob wedge to within three feet of the pin, then made the putt.
Saari, a native of Greenville, SC, started off strong, as he was three under for his first five holes. The key hole was an eagle on the par five 14th hole. “I drove the ball down the middle of the fairway, then had 238 yards to the pin. I hit a five-wood to within three feet and made the putt for eagle,” said Saari, a junior on the Clemson team.
Saari held it together the rest of he way. He had a bogey on the front nine, then got it back with a birdie on the seventh. His 69 was his lowest of the spring and just the second round in the 60s in his Clemson career. He had a 68 at the Jerry Pate Intercollegiate last fall. “I had a different approach today,” said Saari. “We all had the attitude that we wanted to take it low. We were in an attack mindset. We need to keep it that way tomorrow. Really, we left some shots out on the course.” Friday marked the 17th time in 24 career rounds that his score has counted for Clemson.
John Engler had consistent rounds on Friday. Glover shot a 34 on the back nine, his first nine of the day. He finished the first nine with four consecutive 3s. It was his second straight under par round after an opening round 80. Engler shot his third straight 34 on the back nine, including a birdie on the 16th. He shot even par on the front after shooting 39s the first two rounds.
Clemson is expected to tee off on Saturday around 8:30 AM eastern.
Clemson at NCAA TournamentD.J. Trahan 71-74-68 213John Engler 73-73-70 216Jani Saari 73-75-69 217Jonathan Byrd 74-69-76 219Lucas Glover 80-71-70 221Clemson 291-287-277 855
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