A stronger finish by No. 6 seed Liberty on the back nine allowed the Flames to widen their lead following 36 holes of action at the NCAA Greensboro Regional, Friday afternoon, on the East Course at the Grandover Resort.
Following two days of play, Liberty holds a six-stroke advantage over No. 7 seed SMU and a 10-stroke edge over No. 3 seed Florida.
Liberty will enter the final day of competition with an even par 576 (283-293), followed by SMU's six-over par 582 (288-294) and Florida's 10-over par 586 (299-287). Rounding out the Top 5 teams at the 14-team field are top seed Auburn (296-292) and No. 10 seed Lamar (295-293), who share fourth place with a 12-over par 588.
No. 8 seed Texas Tech is the first team on the outside looking in to a trip to the NCAA Men's Golf National Championship, as the Red Raiders are in sixth place with a 13-over par 589 (294-295).
Following 18 additional holes of NCAA Regional play, the Top 5 programs from each of the six NCAA Regionals will advance to the national championship, which will be contested at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., May 29 - June 3.
SMU, Liberty's playing partners on the par 72, 7,271-yard course on Friday along with Tulsa, had closed the margin on the Flames shortly after all five groupings made the turn. With roughly six holes remaining, live scoring had Liberty and SMU in a dead heat, with both programs at a three-over par for the championship.
However, Liberty got consecutive birdies on No. 12 and 13 by Robert Karlsson and back-to-back red figure scores by Chase Marinell on No. 14 and 15 to give Liberty the lead back.
Additionally, the Mustangs Top 3 golfers heading into the championship carded seven bogeys during the final five holes of play to allow Liberty to take its six-stroke edge into the final round of play.
Liberty continues its stretch of leading golf, as the Flames have now been the clubhouse leader for the last eight rounds of golf it has played as a team. During its last two tournaments, both of which the Flames won, Liberty was the wire-to-wire leader at the River Landing Intercollegiate and the 2012 Big South Men's Golf Championship.
Liberty also has a golfer in contention to claim individual medalist honors, with Karlsson standing two shots off the overall pace with a five-under par 139 (70-69). Day one leader Matt Schovee from SMU was able to continue his solid play at the East Course and leads the 75-man field with a seven-under par 137 (67-70).
2012 Big South Golfer of the Year Vaita Guillaume of Campbell (70-71) and Auburn's Blayne Barber (73-68) are tied for third place with a three-under par 141. Rounding out the only remaining players in red figures during the NCAA Regional event are UNLV's Blake Bibble (70-73) and Lamar's M.J. Daffue (70-73), who share fifth place with a one-under par 143.
Marinell (70-74) is Liberty's next golfer on the individual leaderboard, as he shares seventh place with four other golfers with an even par 144.
Karlsson was near perfect in carding his sixth sub-70 round in his last eight trips around a collegiate golf course. He posted birdies on three of the four par 5s on the day (No. 2, 6 and 13) and would have had a look at a fourth on the closing No. 18 hole if his short iron approach to the green had not spun back off the top tier were the pin placement was on Friday.
The two-time Big South Golfer of the Year's only blemish on the day was a bogey on the par 4 No. 8, but he offset that with a birdie on the short 125-yard par 3 No. 12 hole to secure his three-under par 69.
Marinell struggled to find the same level of play that allowed him to card an opening round two-under par 70. The sophomore was at even par after a bogey on No. 5 and a birdie on No. 6.
However, the 2011 Big South Freshman of the Year carded a bogey 5 on No. 9 and a triple bogey 7 on No. 11 to stand four-over par on the day before posting his previously mentioned consecutive birdies to get two stroke back and stand at level par for the championship.
Niklas Lindstrom matched Marinell's two-over par 74 on the day and is tied for 12th place with a two-over par 146 (72-74).
The sophomore posted his second bogey on the opening No. 1 hole and quickly dropped to two-over par after a bogey on the par 4 No. 5 hole. He sandwiched a pair of birdies on No. 10 and 12 between a bogey on No. 11 before posting a fourth and final bogey on No. 14.
Mathieu Fenasse, who opened the NCAA Regional with a one-under par 71, fell down the leaderboard after a six-over par 78 on Friday. He is currently tied for 24th place with a five-over par 149 (71-78).
The only freshman on head coach Jeff Thomas' regional roster, Fenasse was solid off the tee today, as he hit 10-of-14 fairways. However, the rookie struggled to find the greens (6-of-18 GIRs) and finished with 26 total putts. He bogeyed the par 3 No. 3 hole after being unable to get up and down from the bunker behind the green. However, he used a helping wind to get home in two on the par 5 No. 6 hole and two putts to get back to even par on the day three holes later.
Fenasse's playing partners struggled during the opening holes, causing the group to lag behind the threesome ahead of them and they were warned for slow play.
The sped-up pace of play took its toll on Fenasse, as he bogeyed four of the next five holes. His lone bright spot during the five-hole stretch was a hybrid shot from the fairway on No. 10 to within eight feet that he nearly sank for birdie.
After getting a par at No. 12, a blocked shot right on his second from the long par 5 No. 13 caused him to lose his second ball in three holes and post a double bogey. He traded a birdie on No. 14 for a bogey on No. 15, the longest par 4 on the course, before closing out the day with three consecutive pars to finish his six-over par round.
Liberty's final golfer on the course was sophomore Ian McConnell, who trimmed three strokes off his opening round to share 57th place with a 12-over par 155 (79-76). After giving one up quickly on the first hole, McConnell leveled his score on the day with a birdie four on the 535-yard par 5 No. 2 hole.
However, that would be the lone under par score for the rest of the day for McConnell, who had four more bogeys en route to his four-over par 76.
For the second straight day, Liberty will have the final tee times off the No. 1 tee at the Grandover Resort East Course on Saturday (McConnell 8:45, Fenasse 8:55, Lindstrom 9:05, Marinell 9:15 and Karlsson 9:25).
Live scoring following each hole throughout the NCAA Greensboro Regional will once again be provided by www.Golfstat.com, while Liberty will continue its social media coverage of the golf team through its Twitter feed, as @LibertyFlames will be providing detailed hole-by-hole coverage for one of Liberty's golfers throughout the final round at the NCAA Greensboro Regional.