For any golfer to have a good outing, each phase of his game needs to come together smoothly. That means the long game, the short game, tee shots and putts all have to work - it does not hurt to have luck on his side too.
The case is not much different for the Virginia men's golf team. Its success as a team in any tournament depends on the play of every individual in the lineup. With only one tournament left before the NCAA East Regionals in May, the No. 24 Cavaliers are waiting for each person's game to fall into place.
"Everyone has played well at one time or another," senior James Driscoll said. "But it's just a matter of everyone playing well at the same time."
This spring the Cavs have shown their capabilities by placing second in the Cleveland Collegiate Invitational in late March and winning the Furman Intercollegiate Title two weeks ago. But last week Virginia only received solid play from junior Cameron Yancey and sophomore Steve Marino as the team took a disappointing seventh place out of nine teams in the highly competitive ACC Championships in Badin Lake, N.C.
"Collectively, we were disappointed," Virginia coach Mike Moraghan said. "We've had too many tournaments where only one or two guys play well. With a team like this, where every guy is a bit inconsistent, you just have to hope that you're firing on all cylinders when you go out."
Between Driscoll, Yancey, Marino and junior Mike Mitchell, Virginia has proven that anyone in their lineup is capable of winning tournaments. Driscoll placed second in the Furman Intercollegiate at seven-under-par only after losing a sudden-death playoff, while a week earlier Mitchell shot a 69 in the final round at the Cleveland Collegiate to chalk up his first tournament win.
But despite these exceptional individual performances, Virginia has struggled at times to post strong collective numbers in team tournaments, where the top four out of five personal scores are counted. Illness and injury this spring have contributed to the inconsistency. Most recently, Driscoll was sick at the ACCs, and Yancey's back problems have plagued him all season long.
Moraghan said the Cavs need to see more consistent scores coming from the core of the lineup on order to compete in the most competitive tournaments.
"It's a great nucleus of those four guys," Moraghan said. "They've all proven they can play well and win at the highest level."
Driscoll has been the center of that nucleus. A native of Chestnut Hill, Mass., Driscoll came to Virginia as one of the nation's top recruits. He has been a pillar in the lineup over his four years, and has fulfilled all expectations. Among his 20 top-10 finishes, which place him second all-time at Virginia, this year's captain won the Golf Digest Invitational in 1999 and also reached the quarterfinals of the renowned U.S. Amateurs.
"At his best, he's as good as any amateur golfer in the world," Moraghan said. "There are times when he's that good. Over the course of the calendar year, there will be three or four tournaments where he'll play exceptionally well and probably win."
Driscoll and Virginia travel to Spartanburg, S.C. this weekend for the Wofford Invitational, their last preparation before NCAA action. If the Cavs place in the top 11 teams at the East Regional - which is likely - they will move on to the NCAA Championships in Auburn.
"No matter what has happened, Regionals and Nationals can really make or break your season," Driscoll said. "If you play well there, you can say you had a good year."