EAST MANATEE -- The leader at the midway point of the stroke-play portion of the NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championships is perhaps its most unique player.
After shooting a stunning 5-under-par 67 in the second round Saturday -- the lowest score anyone has shot so far at The Concession Golf Club during the tournament -- the Southern Methodist University junior Bryson Dechambeau climbed past Illinois junior Thomas Detry and to the top of the leaderboard at 7 under entering Sunday's third round.
The first and easiest thing to learn about Dechambeau is that he's a historian.
The tournament's No. 28 player sports the most unique piece of head wear to be found at the championships: a Ben Hogan-style flat cap, the type of hat more commonly worn by golfers and cabbies in the middle part of the century.
And he has at least two. He wore a red one Friday and a white one Saturday.
He wears it partly to honor Hogan, but it's mainly in memory of three-time major champion Payne Stewart, a former Mustang who died in a 1999 Learjet crash. Stewart rose to popularity and prominence on the PGA Tour partly because of the flat cap and knickerbocker-style pants he wore as a professional.
"They were big idols of mine," said Dechambeau, who was born in 1993, of Stewart and Hogan.
He's also a physicist.
Literally. That's his major, which he chose partly to further his golf game. It has helped lead to the unique swing that has propelled him into first place and has his No. 21 Mustangs tied for 20th at 23-over, 10 strokes out of the eighth place spot they must reach to qualify for Tuesday's match play quarterfinals and 25 strokes behind first-place USC.
Each one of Dechambeau's clubs is the same length, and his hands and club remain on the same plane throughout the entire swing. His childhood coach, Mike Schy, told Golfweek earlier his season that Dechaumbeau is the only player in the country using this style.
He's also a philosopher.
After finishing the best round of the tournament on Saturday by answering a 17th-hole bogey -- his second of the round -- with a round-capping birdie on No. 18, Dechambeau had determined that this tournament is the best he's played all year.
By the end of the second hole, he already had a chip-in and birdie. By the end of the third, he had two chip-ins and an eagle. He holed out on Nos. 2 and 3 to reach 3-under and set the tone for the entire day. He says, however, that his strong play is all about living in the moment.
"I'm not focusing on the future; I'm not focusing on the past," he says. "I'm focusing on what I have to deal with right now. And if I can take care of what I am taking care of when I'm hitting the shots on the golf course, that's all I can ask for. I can't ask for anything more than that."
The day before his masterful second round, he earned a reputation as an adventurer.
On the par-5 13th hole Friday, Dechambeau found himself stuck in a water hazard on the left side of the fairway. Rather than take a drop and a penalty, Dechambeau took off his shirt, shoes and socks, and launched from the shallows. He ended up with a par. After the round, he said he hadn't wanted to get his shirt dirty.
"Quite a character right there," Golf Channel analyst Charlie Rymer said when the highlight made "Morning Drive."
With 36 holes left, and all but 15 teams and nine other individuals will be cut after Sunday, only three players are within 3 strokes of Dechambeau -- No. 26 Detry at 5 under and LSU junior Zach Wright at minus 4 - although seven others are within five, including Washington senior and IMG Academy alumnus Cheng-Tsung Pan.
USF freshman Claudio Correa, who shared the lead at 4-under entering Day 2, dropped to minus-1 on Saturday, leaving him with even with Florida State junior Hank Lebioda. As a team, the No. 14 Bulls jumped from an eighth-place tie into a share of fifth at plus 9 and the top-ranked Seminoles leapt from a tie for 14th up to 10th at 14-over. No. 37 Florida tumbled from a sixth-place tie all the way down to 23rd and is 13 strokes out of eighth at plus-26.
"I like our position," USF head coach Steve Bradley said. "I think that going into tomorrow trying to make that top 15 gives us some room and some confidence with ultimately getting into Monday and trying to make that top eight."