MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Mike Small's attention had already shifted ahead hours after his Illinois men's golf team won its ninth straight Big Ten Championship.
"We have the second-longest (finals) streak in all of NCAA Division I," said the Illini head coach of a streak that stands at 11 straight appearances in the NCAA Championships. "That's something we want to keep going."
In today's final round of the Myrtle Beach Regional, the Illini have the chance to do just that with their tied-for-second score of 9-under being at least five strokes better than the rest of the field.
The top five teams earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.
Not quite as sharp as in the opening round, Illinois slipped out of its first-day lead Tuesday after Wake Forest and Ohio State shot identical 7-under rounds, with the Buckeyes seizing a two-shot lead.
The dropoff didn't seem to affect Illinois junior Michael Feagles, though, as he matched his first-round score of 68 to take a share of the individual lead.
Freshman and day-one leader Adrien Dumont de Chassart lost his top-spot status after carding even par in the second day, but he remains within striking distance in a tie for fourth place — just three strokes behind Feagles and Oregon's Edwin Yi.
"We seemed a little jumpy (Tuesday) and we did not have as much control of our golf ball," Small said. "Michael played well, and if we can get more than one guy to play like that (Wednesday), it will be a big plus."
Freshman Tommy Kuhl sits on the edge of the top 25 at 2-over 146 overall, good for a share of 26th.
Sophomore and Uni High product Varun Chopra (4 over) and junior Giovanni Tadiotto (6 over) have also chipped in during the first two days.
"We're excited for (Wednesday)," Small said. "We are in position to have a good tournament, and the leader is within range. We need to play more like we did on the first day of this tournament."