PALM DESERT, Calif. — The University of Colorado men's golf team and three of its players are in the hunt for top honors here in the inaugural Kansas State Bighorn Invitational, as the Buffaloes are in fifth after Friday's two rounds.

No. 15 Illinois owns the lead with a 20-under par 556 team score, but the top of the standings is jam-packed, with five teams within eight shots of the lead. No. 76 Mississippi State is second (560), No. 30 Brigham Young and No. 74 Notre Dame are tied for third (563) and the No. 47 Buffs are fifth (564).

Colorado was fourth after the morning round with a 5-under 283, four back of Illinois, which actually got off to a slow start (1-over after three holes) before getting on a roll. The Buffaloes came back with a 7-under 281 the second time around the 7,000-yard, par-72 The Canyons course at Bighorn Golf Club, which offers an intriguing test of golf.

While making par is always appreciated and usually dominates the scoring, just 58 percent of the holes yielded that score Friday (out of just under 2,400). The five Buffaloes here actually made 88 pars, but had 92 other scores - fortunately 46 were birdies along with three eagles.

"It's the kind of golf course, where if you hit good shots, you're going to be rewarded and have a really good chance at making birdie," CU head coach Roy Edwards said. "But if you hit it off line, you can be looking at a big number really quick."

"This has to be the most perfectly manicured golf course I've even seen," Edwards added. "I told Pat (Grady, assistant coach) when we first arrived at the course it looked like we were driving into a painting. Everything's perfect in every way. The guys love it, it's a fun course. It's not easy, it's difficult course, but the guys know it's a real treat to play it."


Three Buffaloes are within four shots of the lead as the individual standings are tightly packed as well.

Leading the way is senior Yannik Paul, who shot his collegiate-best score in the morning, a 7-under par 65, which held up as the low score of the day. He had eight birdies, tied for the most in a single round by a Buff this season. Starting on the 9th hole, he ended his first round with three straight birdies on Nos. 6, 7 and 8; he then birdied three of his first four holes to open play in the afternoon and had it at 10-under at that point. He then came back down to Earth a bit, shooting 5-over on his next 13 holes before rallying with a birdie to finish his day and stands tied for third at 6-under 138, one shot out of the lead.

His 14 birdies are the most after 36 holes in the 66-man field. That already ties for the fourth-most in a tournament by a Buff this year, behind a high of 17 and a pair of 15-birdie efforts.

Sophomore Daniel O'Loughlin turned in a 72-67—139 scorecard (5-under), tying him for seventh and is thus just two strokes out of the top spot. He opened with a solid effort (three birdies, 12 pars) and then matched Paul's birdie count for a single round with eight in round two; only a bogey and a double prevented him from posting a lower number. He started on No. 11 and had those blemishes early, as he wrapped up his day with five birds in his last nine holes.