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Flames' Nationals Run Ends with 10th-Place Finish
A multiple-team race during the third round of stroke play at the 2012 NCAA Men's Golf National Championship eventually boiled down to a three-team sprint. However, the Flames ended up being the odd team out, concluding their first-ever national appearance with a 10th-place finish.
A total of 15 teams came into the final day of competition within nine shots of each other, all vying for six of the eight spots that will head into the next three days' match play rounds.
Solid play during the first two days of competition positioned Alabama and UCLA well ahead of the rest of the pack. Alabama would go on to grab the No. 1 seed for the match play portion of the national championship with a seven-over par 859 (285-287-287), followed by No. 2 seed UCLA with a nine-over par 861 (289-287-285).
As the final stroke play round started to wrap up, it became clear that four teams were challenging for the final two match play seeds, with Oregon, Florida State, Kent State and Liberty all within three strokes of each other.
The Ducks withstood the test of their closing holes, No. 16, 17 and 18, playing the three holes at two-over par to secure the No. 7 seed with a 21-over par 873 (291-294-288).
Kent State, Liberty's playing partners along with eventual No. 4 seed California (19-over par 871/295-289-287) on Thursday, remained just a stroke or two ahead of the Flames most of the way down the stretch.
The Flames and the Golden Flashes matched scores during their final five holes of play (No. 5-9), both posting two-over par during the five-hole run. Liberty came into the stretch down one stroke to Kent State and finished in the same position.
Liberty was also looking for help from Florida State, but the Seminoles were able to fend off the Flames when Brooks Koepka posted a two-putt par from the front edge of the green at the famous No. 18 to end Liberty's hopes of advancing.
Kent State (293-291-291) and Florida State (290-290-295), who both finished with a 23-over par 875, will return to the Riviera Country Club, tomorrow morning, at 8 a.m. to play a sudden death playoff to determine the No. 8 and final seed in the match play rounds that will eventually lead to a new national champion being crowned on Saturday.
The remaining seeds which have already been determined are No. 1 seed Alabama, No. 2 seed UCLA, No. 3 seed Texas, No. 4 seed California, No. 5 seed San Diego State, No. 6 seed Washington and No. 7 seed Oregon.
The Flames finished their first-ever national appearance just one shot out of the playoff, carding a 24-over par 876 (295-288-293). The 10th place showing for the Flames was the best by any of Liberty's athletics teams at a NCAA Division I national championship event, bettering the men's outdoor track program that finished 12th in 2011.
Individually, Liberty's Chase Marinell finished tied for 29th place with a four-over par 217 (71-70-76), Robert Karlsson finished tied for 50th place with a seven-over par 220 (75-72-73), Niklas Lindstrom (83-71-70) and Mathieu Fenasse (75-75-74) both tied for 77th place with an 11-over par 224 and Ian McConnell finished tied for 135th place with a 19-over par 232 (74-80-78).
Only six players in the 156-man field were able to circle the par-71, 7,292-yard course three times under par. Illinois' Thomas Pieters led the field and was crowned the 2012 NCAA Men's Golf individual national champion after carding a five-under par 208 (69-68-71).
Marinell entered the day just four strokes off the individual pace behind Pieters, but quickly fell back after a bogey on his opening hole at No. 10 when he found the front bunker.
The sophomore was able to quickly get the shot back after sticking an iron shot within three feet of the pin at No. 12 to get back to level par for the day.
However, that would be the final time Marinell would card a birdie on the day, as he closed with 10 pars and five additional bogeys.
He dropped his first shot after finding the right front bunker at No. 14, a par-3, 189-yard hole, followed by another dropped shot at No. 18 after a wayward tee shot right.
Marinell would then three-putt No. 2 before losing additional shots on both of the par 3s (No. 4 and 6) during his final nine holes. He missed the green right at No. 4 and could not get up and down. He found the green at No. 6 in regulation, but was on the wrong side of an unusual bunker in the middle of the green that eventually led to a three-putt bogey.
Marinell looked like he was going to give another one back at No. 8 after his tee shot nearly went out of bounds to the right. However, the sophomore was able to recover and get up and down for par from about 40 yards off the green.
Marinell had one last chance on No. 9, his closing hole, to help the Flames, but his 22-foot putt from below the hole just slid left of the cup to close out his five-over par 76. On the day, Marinell hit 6-of-14 fairways, 11-of-18 greens and finish with 34 total putts.
Karlsson opened what would be his final round as a member of the Flames' roster with a birdie on No. 10, before giving shots back in succession at No. 14 and 15.
Following his third straight birdie at the par-5 No. 17 hole this week, Karlsson double bogeyed No. 18 for the second time this week to make the turn at two-over par.
Karlsson traded a birdie at No. 2 for a bogey at No. 5, and almost made birdie at No. 6, but his seven-foot try from just right of the hole missed the cup.
Lindstrom continued to be the Flames' hottest golfer during the second part of the championship event, after opening the first day with a 12-over par 83.
The sophomore got off to a shaky start on Thursday, posting bogeys at No. 10 and 12. However, he would make the turn at even par after birdies on No. 13, 15 and 18 and a bogey on No. 16.
He eagled the opening hole, a par-5, 501-yards, to drop to two-under par for the day, before giving one of those shots right back with a bogey at No. 2. Lindstrom closed with seven straight pars to round out a round of 70, Liberty's second under-par score this week at the national championship event.
Fenasse followed Karlsson with a birdie on the starting No. 10 hole, but closed out his front nine with bogeys at No. 15 and 16, plus a double bogey at No. 18 to make the turn at three-over par.
Fenasse matched Lindstrom's course-opening hole accomplishments with an eagle, before posting bogeys at No. 2, 4 and 9 to offset a birdie at No. 5 to round out his best 18-hole total during the week.
McConnell, Liberty's first golfer on the course on Thursday, opened with a bogey at No. 10. He would make the turn at five-over par after four straight bogeys at No. 13, 14, 15 and 16.
McConnell would end a string of seven consecutive pars with a birdie at No. 6, before finishing up with a bogey at No. 8 and a double bogey on his last hole at No. 9.
The Flames' nemesis on the day and during the week was the famous closing hole at the Riviera Country Club, home to four major championship events in its 90-year existence.
Liberty posted a combined four-over par on the par-4, 475-yard uphill hole on the day, leading to a combined 10-over par score on No. 18 during the three days of play. The hole did play as the No. 1 handicap hole on the course during the week (+0.66), after yielding 12 birdies to 79 yards, 56 bogeys and eight other scores.
The 10th-place finish brings to a close Liberty's national championship run and the 2011-12 season. The year yielded three team victories, including the program's second consecutive Big South title and a victory at the NCAA Greensboro Regional.