FORD CITY — The Division II Men’s Golf Championship is really a couple of mini-tournaments played within the main event.

Twenty schools began chasing the overall title Monday on the Fighting Joe course at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at the Shoals, but to win the team title teams first have to survive 54 holes of medal play to qualify for match play. After Tuesday’s second round and with just 18 holes remaining before the field is trimmed to eight, only 20 strokes separate third-place Abilene Christian from the 14th-place Barry.

And that sets up nicely for a tense third round as teams jockey to make it into the top eight that ultimately will decide the men’s title.

Barring disaster, top-ranked Lynn (582) and second-place Cal State University-Monterey Bay (587) appear to have successfully negotiated their way through first mini-event.

The intrigue begins a little lower as the field battles to get into the top eight. Abilene Christian (592), and Central Missouri (593) are third and fourth, while Fort Lewis (597), Central Oklahoma (599), Indiana, Pa. (601) and Hawaii-Hilo (602) round out the top eight.

Within striking distance are Newberry (606), Barton (606), Columbus State (608), 2009 champ Sonoma State (611), Colorado State-Pueblo (611) and Barry (612).

If the NCAA was looking to spice things up when it changed from 72 holes of medal play to a combination of medal and match play, it appears to have achieved its goal.

Fort Lewis coach Bud Andersen said he’s looking forward to seeing how it plays out today and beyond.

“It feels good to be in the mix,” Andersen said. “Match play is a whole new ballgame. My guys can make a lot of birdies and they can make a lot of bogeys, but that’s what’s good about the format.”

But first, Fort Lewis has to get there. And holding precariously onto fifth place, Andersen said his team won’t be playing defensive today.

“The position we’re in right now, we can’t be defensive,” he said.

“If we play defensive, we’re not going to play well. I think we’ll respond. It’s going to be nerve-wracking, but they know what needs to be done to move on.”

The second mini-event is the race for the individual championship that concludes today. There’s plenty of potential champions lurking on  the leaderboard with 11 players within four shots of the lead.

Among the leaders are a pair of individual qualifiers. Jake Murphy, of Coker College, went zooming up the leaderboard with the tournament’s best round — a 5-under-par 67 for a two-round total of 141. Another individual qualifier, Kyle Souza, of Chico State, also is at 141, along with Central Missouri’s Zack Van Dolah.

Lynn’s Ricardo Gouveia (73) and Hawaii-Hilo’s Corey Kozuma — a pair of freshmen — are at 142.

Gouveia got to 4-under but bogeyed his final two holes.

For Murphy, it was steady as she goes.

“I hit every fairway and a lot of greens,” said Murphy, who needed only 29 putts. “I made some really good long putts. That’s always a bonus.”

Murphy, who opened with a 74, said Fighting Joe played easier in the second round on a sunny, breezy day.

“It played almost 180 degrees easier,” he said.

“Yesterday on the par 3s you were thinking about

making par. Today you were thinking birdie because the tees were moved up from around 200 yards to around 150.”

Kozuma played his way into contention with a 2-under 70. He got a little redemption from a first round that saw him reach 5-under on his front nine before slipping back to even par on the back nine Monday.

“I’m not going to say the course was playing easier, but it was more favorable today,” he said. “I made some adjustments off the tee today. I’m confident with what I’m hitting off the tees now. If I commit to that and execute. I should be OK.”

The surviving eight teams will be seeded after today’s third round. Match play begins with the quarterfinals Thursday morning and semifinals in the afternoon.

Gregg Dewalt can be reached at 256-740-5748 or gregg.dewalt@TimesDaily.com

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ARTICLE ORIGNINALLY POSTED BY TIMES DAILY ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 18, 2011. To see the original article visit http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20110518/SPORTS40/110519789/1167/sports40?Title=Cut-day-looms

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