Pieters closing in on NCAA title
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Illinois' Thomas Pieters fired a 3-under 68 on Wednesday at Riviera Country Club and has a 2-stroke lead heading into the final round of the NCAA Championships.
But the sophomore was more worried about the team making it to match play than the fact he's 18 holes away from being the second Illini national champ in three years.
"If the team gets in the top eight tomorrow, I will be happy. If I win or not, it doesn't matter," said Pieters, who could join 2012 champ Scott Langley.
The Illini has some work to do if they're to make it to the weekend. In a tightly packed field, Illinois is in a five-way tie for the final spot to advance to match play.
"We need to go out and do what we have done all year to catch the people in front of us," Illini coach Mike Small said. "We are not going to shoot for the No. 8 spot. We are going to try and catch No. 1, 2 or 3. We need to get after it tomorrow and not just try to protect anything. We just need to relax and let our talents take over."
Illinois' Luke Guthrie, a first-team All-American last season, is tied for 25th after a 1-over 72, 2 strokes outside the top 10.