EAST MANATEE -- With 18 holes separating Bryson Dechambeau from Southern Methodist's first individual men's golf national championship he tossed aside the mantra that helped the No. 28 golfer in the country into a contender at the NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championships and thought about Monday.
After rounds of minus-2, minus-5 and even during his first three days at The Concession Golf Club, Dechambeau briefly stepped out of the moment. He was too excited about the fourth and final round of stroke play to keep strictly focused on the here and now.
"I'm pumped," Dechambeau said. "It's the first time I've been in this position. I'm gonna take it with heart and I'm gonna do my best with it."
For the second straight day, Dechambeau will enter the following round with a lead. His 5-under 67 on Saturday vaulted him atop the leaderboard at minus-7 and his even par round Saturday was enough to keep him one stroke ahead of Alabama-Birmingham senior Paul Dunne.
After Dechambeau's worst round of the tournament Sunday -- a par performance that much of the field would kill for -- the junior could pinpoint all the places it went wrong.
There was the second shot on No. 13 that he sliced into the tall grass right of the green. He had to take an unplayable-lie penalty and a potential birdie on the par-5 turned into a bogey.
Then there was No. 15, where he wound up in the rough again. He still saved bogey but only after missing a 5-foot par putt.
And there was No. 17, an
ther par-5. He had a chance to move under par with a birdie yet settled for par and an even round.
"If I capitalize on the par-5s and play the par-4s like I have been -- and the par-3s -- I'll do just fine," Dechambeau said.
Three others are within three strokes of Dechambeau's lead, including South Florida freshman and IMG Academy alumnus Claudio Correa. The other two -- Illinois junior Thomas Detry and Georgia sophomore Zach Healy -- were unable to finish their third rounds Saturday after lightning halted play following their first 14 holes. Play will resume at 7 a.m. with the fourth round to follow, probably around 10.
The No. 14 Bulls and Florida State also will both likely advance to the final round of stroke play. The top-ranked Seminoles are in 11th place at 18-over after their rain- shortened third round -- they have golfers as far back as No. 16 -- while USF is seventh at plus-13. Half of the 30 teams in Bradenton will be eliminated once the third round of stroke play is complete. The top nine players from eliminated teams will also advance to Monday's final round.
After stroke play is finished, the field will once again be cut down with the top eight teams advancing to Tuesday's match-play quarterfinals. FSU enters Monday two strokes out of a tie for eighth and eight strokes ahead of the teams tied for 15th.
South Florida began eyeing the top eight during Sunday's round. During a rough stretch at the turn, head coach Steve Bradley started to think about the Bulls' position on the leaderboard. USF had been through rough stretches during this tournament and typically found a way out, following the example of its top player.
After jolting into first place with a first-round 68, Correa stumbled to a 75 on Saturday. He lost his first tee shot and added a double bogey on No. 2. On No. 3, he had a chance at an eagle, but four-putted for a bogey. After six holes, he was 7-over.
"I was like, 'I'm going to shoot 90 today,'" Correa said.
Bradley told him to get his "head out of wherever," Correa remembers, and the freshman responded with a birdie on No. 7 and a fist pump. Then another birdie. He shot 44-under for the final 12 holes before reeling off a 69 on Sunday to move back within 3 strokes of the lead.
"He is such a good ball-striker and puts himself in so many opportunities to make birdies," Bradley said. "His biggest challenge is when he doesn't see them go in he gets frustrated with himself.
"It's not a negative thing. It's an impatient thing."
And when he regrouped, South Florida followed.
The Bulls came into the NCAA Championships as the hometown dark horse. With 18 holes left before match play, USF has a one-stroke cushion on eighth-place teams Georgia Tech and UCLA and trails the first-place Bulldogs by 12. Now South Florida is more than just a plucky fan favorite.
"Our goal was certainly to make the top eight," Bradley said. "We're confident enough that I think we feel like we have a chance to win this thing."