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Flames Finish in Eighth Place at NCAA Eugene Regional
No. 6 seed Liberty made a run at the top five teams in the field at the NCAA Eugene Regional twice during Saturday's final round, eventually finishing tied for eighth place to wrap up its 2013-14 season.
The Flames started the day nine strokes behind No. 2 seed Houston and No. 9 North Florida, with the top five teams at the regional looking to advance to next week's NCAA Men's Golf National Championship in Hutchinson, Kan.
By day's end, the team which survived the difficult playing conditions at the Eugene Country Club and was able to secure the fifth and final spot to next week's event was No. 5 seed South Carolina with a 40-over par 880 (286-293-301).
The Flames, who started their third-straight day on the back nine of the par-70, 6,990-yard course, got within five shots of the Gamecocks until No. 16. The long par-4 hole (492 yard) saw the Flames drop five shots at it and seemed to push Liberty out of contention.
However, the Flames used seven birdies over a five-hole, 45-minute block of time to make one last run at their second trip to the national championship event in the last three years.
With a birdie by senior Niklas Lindstrom at the par-5, No. 6 hole (545 yards), his third birdie in a row, Liberty pulled within two strokes of South Carolina's coveted fifth-place position.
Liberty could not keep the push going, as the Flames posted a combined eight bogeys during its five golfers on the last three holes to eventually drop to eighth place and finish nine shots back of South Carolina.
The Flames (295-297-297), who appeared in their fourth-straight NCAA Regional and the sixth in program history, shared eighth place with East Tennessee State (296-293-300) with both team's recording a 49-over par 889.
No. 1 seed Stanford withstood a final day charge from hometown favorite and tournament host Oregon to win the team title by one stroke.
The Cardinals, who entered the day with a nine-shot lead, posted a 13-over par 853 (276-282-295) and finished one shot ahead of Oregon's 14-over par 854 (289-280-285) on the No. 7 seed's home golf course.
The final two teams to punch their ticket to next week's national championship were No. 3 seed Oklahoma, who finished in third place with a 20-over par 860 (280-287-293), and Houston, who took fourth with a 35-over par 875 (290-293-292).
Individual medalist honors went to Stanford's Patrick Rodgers, who tied Tiger Woods' record for most career individual victories by a Cardinal golfer (11). Rodgers posted a winning score of six-under par 204 (66-67-71).
Oregon's Thomas Lim was one of only three golfers in the 75-man field to break par on a day when the course was playing on average five strokes over par (75.52). Lim's four-under par 66 on Saturday helped him finish in second place with an even par 210 (74-70-66).
Liberty's Lindstrom and Chattanooga's Chris Robb finished the event tied for third place with a two-over par 212 and went to a one-hole playoff to determine which golfer was going to get the individual at-large bid into next week's national championship (which went to the top golfer not from a team that qualified for the national championship).
The pair was taken back to the No. 9 tee (par-4, 450 yards), where Robb found the left bunker and Lindstrom boomed a 300-plus yard drive well down the fairway.
Robb was able to get out of the bunker and leave himself short of the green with a difficult up-and-down over the right front bunker.
Despite Lindstrom's lengthy first shot, the senior found himself in trouble as he was underneath one of the many overhanging tree branches that lined the fairways of the Robert Trent Jones redesigned course.
Lindstrom wasn't able to get another height on his shot to keep the ball from rolling off the back of the green and out of the thick rough.
Robb hit his pitch shot to within eight feet and was able to sink his putt for par and force Lindstrom to follow and extend the playoff.
Lindstrom's pitch ran past the hole and his attempt to force a second playoff hole lipped out, ending the match and giving Robb the opportunity to extend his season.
Lindstrom's second even-par round at the regional saw him hit 9-of-14 fairways and 14-of-18 greens in regulation with 33 total putts.
Lindstrom's best run of the day and the run that helped position Liberty for a potential top five finish came when he birdied No. 4, 5 and 6. However, the senior pulled his drive left at the lengthy No. 8 hole (par-4, 485 yards) and wasn't able to get up and down for par from the front bunker to drop his final shot of the day.
The two-over par 212 (70-72-70) was the best finish for the senior in three regional appearances. His third-place finish was his team-leading fifth top five finish of the season and the 14th of his career Liberty.
Mathieu Fenasse, the only non-senior player on Liberty's regional roster, saved his best round of the event for last to finish tied for 36th place with a 13-over par 223 (75-77-71).
The junior was able to overcome an early double bogey on his second hole to get back to one-over par for the day with birdies at No. 4 (par-4, 408 yards) and No. 6 (par-5, 545 yards).
Liberty's final golfer in the field was Jacob Mast, who continually showed steady improvement during the regional. In his third career start for the Flames, the senior closed his collegiate career with a six-over par 76 to finish the event in 70th place with a 29-over par 239 (83-80-76).
The Flames' senior golfers of Lindstrom, Marinell, Mast and McConnell wrapped up their collegiate playing career with today's round.
The group helped Liberty claim third Big South titles in four years. They earned NCAA Regional appearances each of the last four years, spotlighted by a NCAA Regional title in 2012 and a 10th place finish the same year at the NCAA Men's Golf National Championship at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
The group continually helped the Flames remain inside the top 40 in the national rankings during their four-year careers, including earlier this season when Liberty finished the fall season ranked No. 24 in the country by Golfstat.