The Honors Course isn't designed for low rounds or big comebacks, though you might not know it judging by Wednesday's scores. For many of the players on the leaderboard at the NCAA Championships, they'll need more of the same today if they want to capture the individual national championship.
Heading into the final round, only 14 players - counting the few who have yet to complete their second rounds - are within six shots of leader Alex Ching of San Diego. Ching is at 9-under after shooting a 6-under 66 Wednesday. Virginia's Henry Smart also shot 66 which tied the course record.
Illinois' Scott Langley vaulted his way up to a tie for second place with a 5-under round through 17 holes. Langley, who holed his second shot on the par-4 15th, is at 7-under overall and will complete his round this morning.
Conditions have been favorable this week thanks to the rain, which has softened the greens and allowed players to go for the flags. Regardless, Augusta State's Henrik Norlander said, "it's still a long golf course and you're hitting 6 irons and 5 irons into the greens, and you're not going to make too many birdies from there."
Norlander, who is at 7-under following rounds of 68-69, said he has a hard time picturing anyone going super low today.
"I guess someone can shoot 66, but I don't really see a 7-under (65) around here," he said.
With the lead at 9-under and little chance of anyone blitzing through the course in 65 or lower, that may limit the list of potential medalists to those at 5-under or better - six players.
One of the players on the outside looking in is Georgia's Russell Henley, who's No. 1 in the country in the latest Golfweek rankings. Henley put himself well back with a 1-over 73 Wednesday, bringing him back to even-par 144 for the tournament.
"Seven shots is a lot," he said following his round, when that was the leading score. "You've got to do a lot of damage to come back from that."
Henley did some of the wrong kind of damage on his final two holes Wednesday, shooting a combined 3-over.
Luck was against him on the 365-yard, par-4 9th when some mud stuck on the right side of his ball following a drive down the middle of the fairway. His wedge sailed into the bunker left of the green and he couldn't get up and down for par, giving him a double bogey-bogey finish.
Florida State, which leads the team scoring at 14-under following a 9-under round Wednesday, has four players in the hunt at 2-under or better. Seath Lauer leads the Seminoles at 5-under after shooting 70 on Wednesday.
Lauer has made seven birdies and two bogeys this week and said he's played fairly conservatively thus far. That might change a little today.
"I need to be a little more aggressive with my putter," he said. "I'm not making very many putts; I don't know if I'm playing a little conservative with that, too. Other than that I'm going to stick with the same way I'm playing."
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