The best college teams in the nation played in a steady rain Friday, their scores and sentiments very similar.

"It was playing more like 8,400 or 9,000," said Georgia senior David Denham, referring to the 7,131-yard Caves Valley Golf Club, site of this week's NCAA golf championship. "You couldn't get on in two on par 4s unless you hit two great shots."

Yet, despite a 17-over-par 297 in the third round, the Bulldogs were able to maintain a nine-shot advantage, this time over Georgia Tech. Georgia has been on top after each day.

"Today was just a day of survival," Georgia Coach Chris Haack said. "I thought they played pretty solid."

Denham was certainly solid, recording a 2-over 72.

"I felt like I shot 3 or 4 under," said Denham, who chipped in from 30 feet at No. 7 for his lone birdie. "You have to tell yourself everyone is playing the same conditions. Everyone is going to make a lot of bogeys."

In the individual competition, Pepperdine's Michael Putnam, at 3-under 207, leads by a stroke over Robert Castro of Georgia Tech and Augusta State's Major Manning. UNLV senior Ryan Moore, the No. 1 player in college golf, put together his best round of the week, a 1-over 71, but still trailed Putnam by nine.

"I haven't hit that many long irons in a couple of years," said Moore, who was much more proficient on the greens after switching putters for Friday's round.

Starting in the afternoon, New Mexico junior Spencer Levin finished with a 1-over 71. Levin, who was tied for 70th at the halfway mark, moved into a tie for 29th. The Lobos finished at 11 over for the day, rising from 25th into a tie for 12th.

Top-ranked Oklahoma State, however, did not mount the rally it needed to become a real factor. For a while, the Cowboys, who shot a 21-over 301, appeared they might even miss the 54-hole cut. Only the top 15 teams play Saturday. But Oklahoma State ended the day in 14th place.

Entering Saturday's final round, Haack sees no need for any motivational speeches.

"They're seasoned," said Haack, who captured a national championship in 1999. "They know what's at stake. They just have to stay in the present and not get caught up in the results."