They made a few bogeys coming in, a reminder that no lead in this competition, on this course, is secure. Yet, halfway through the NCAA golf championship at Caves Valley Golf Club, the Georgia Bulldogs have distanced themselves from the field.
"Everyone is doing a good job of staying in the present, and not getting emotionally involved," said Coach Chris Haack, whose squad shot a 4-over 284 in Thursday's second round, extending its advantage to nine shots over Tennessee.
The level of concentration could perhaps be related to a players-only meeting held in their hotel Wednesday morning. Called by junior captain Kevin Kisner, it was the first meeting this season solely for the five players competing in this tournament.
"I felt like I needed to make sure we were on the same page," said Kisner, who told his teammates that if they were victorious this week, it would be the "experience of a lifetime."
Kisner, after an opening 65, staggered with a 4-over 74 but is one of three Bulldogs among the top 15 in the individual competition. Sophomore Brendon Todd shot a 2-under 70 for 138, while sophomore Chris Kirk stands at even-par 140. Pepperdine senior Michael Putnam, after his second consecutive 67, leads at 6-under 134.
Meanwhile, there have been some big surprises, in both team and individual play.
Top-ranked Oklahoma State struggled for the second straight day with a 9-over 289. The Cowboys, 23 shots behind the Bulldogs, are right on the cut line, which will come after Friday's third round. The top 15 teams play Saturday. Each team fields five players and is allowed to drop the worst score.
"I thought we'd do well here," Oklahoma State Coach Mike Holder said. "We've shown resiliency through the year. There are still 36 holes left, but that won't do us any good if we don't play better."
The only bright spot for the Cowboys has been the performance of senior Alex Moren, who shot a 1-under 69 and is five strokes behind Putnam.
Ryan Moore, the No. 1 player in college golf, has also failed to live up to expectations. After firing a second-round 73, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas senior will have to put together two very good rounds to defend his title. At 5-over 145, he trails Putnam by 11.
"I hit the ball like a 65 and putted like a 90," said Moore, who tied for 13th at this year's Masters. "It was playing tougher, but that's no excuse."
Caves Valley, however, hasn't proven too tough for the Bulldogs. Still, Haack, who captured a national championship in 1999, isn't ready to celebrate quite yet.
"We just happen to have had a lot of things go our way," Haack said. "There are too many good teams left."
Haack doesn't know what went on during the players' meeting, but "whatever they talked about," he said, "I like the formula."