SUGAR GROVE (WCIA) — The Illinois men’s golf team started out round three of the national championships on fire on Sunday, but the Illini limped down the stretch finishing the day at -14.
On moving day here at the NCAA Championships the Illini do just that, putting themselves in position to advance after three rounds.
The top 15 teams move on to Monday’s fourth and final round of stroke play when an individual champion will be crowned. The real number Illinois is keeping an eye on is eight though. That’s how many teams will qualify for match play.
Getting to that point shouldn’t be an issue for the Illini, who actually took the team and individual lead here on Sunday. Illinois was -20 under at point, two strokes ahead of Southern Cal but they struggled to keep that lead down the stretch, finishing the final two holes five over par as a team. The focus was on cleaning that up during a 10-minute team meeting following the round but their eye remains on the bigger picture and finally winning the program’s first national title.
“We’re good when we hunt. When we’re down we want to win this thing. We want to win stroke play, we want to win match play. We’re not going to settle for second or anything like that,” Dylan Meyer explained.
“I think most teams will think about advancing but I think Illinois thinks about the top of the leaderboard and finishing first and right now we’re four or five shots back out of first so our goal tomorrow is to get that one seed,” junior Nick Hardy added.
“I’m glad they’ve embraced that concept that we have in our program that you win everything you do and we’re five back,” head coach Mike Small said. “We want to look up the leaderboard, we don’t want to look down it and we were right there today. If we play the last couple of holes like we should, we’d be in that lead so we’ve got to make up some ground to get back in there.”
Illinois will be back here at Rich Harvest Farms Monday for the final round of stroke play. Dylan Meyer enters the final 18 in a great position to win the individual national championship and that would certainly give the Illini some added buzz heading into match play on Tuesday.
Here’s how the leaderboard stands after three rounds:
1) Vanderbilt -18
T2) Oklahoma -17
T2) UNLV – 17
T2) Southern California -17
5) Illinois -14
6) Oklahoma State -12
T7) Baylor -9
T7) Virginia -9
9) Auburn -8