GREENSBORO, NC (May 17, 2012) -- No. 6 seed Liberty was the only team in the 14-team field at the NCAA Greensboro Regional to find red numbers on Thursday, with the Flames' five-under par 283 giving Liberty the lead after the first 18 holes of action.
Liberty currently holds a five-stroke advantage over No. 7 seed SMU, who carded an even par 288 to hold a five-stroke edge on third place.
The Mustangs' second-place team ranking is due in part to the solid play of Matt Schovee, who individually leads the field after carding six birdies and one bogey to post a five-under par 67 on the East Course at the Grandover Resort (par 72, 7,271 yards).
No. 9 seed Tulsa and No. 2 seed UNLV share third place after both teams posted a five-over par 293.No. 8 seed Texas Tech holds the all-important final spot in the Top 5 rankings after carding a six-over par 294.
Following 36 additional holes of action on Friday and Saturday, the Top 5 programs in this 14-team NCAA Regional field will earn a trip to the NCAA Men's Golf National Championship at The Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., May 29 – June 3.
Just sitting outside the national championship cut line after the conclusion of the first of three rounds are No. 11 seed Louisiana-Lafayette and No. 10 seed Lamar, who share sixth place after a seven-over par 295.
Top-seeded Auburn is in eighth place after an eight-over par 296, followed by No. 5 seed Indiana (10-over par 298), No. 3 seed Florida (11-over par 299) and No. 4 seed Duke (13-over par 301).
Liberty has now been the clubhouse leader for seven straight rounds of golf, dating back to the River Landing Intercollegiate (April 6-7) and the Big South Men's Golf Championship (April 16-17). The Flames would eventually go onto to capture the team titles at both events.
Liberty's five-stroke day one lead was a team effort on Thursday, with Robert Karlsson and Chase Marinell both carding a two-under par 70, Mathieu Fenasse posting a one-under par 71 and Niklas Lindstrom scoring an even par round of 72.
Karlsson and Marinell are two of five players who are currently tied for fourth place overall, while Fenasse shares eighth place with three other golfers. A dozen total players in the 75-man field finished the day in red figures. Lindstrom, along with Texas Tech's Finley Ewing, IV, are tied for 13th place.
Liberty's final golfer at the NCAA Greensboro Regional is Ian McConnell, who carded a seven-over par 79 and is currently tied for 60th place following the first 18 holes of action.
The Flames, who were paired with golfers from No. 4 seed Duke and No. 5 seed Indiana, were sent off the No. 10 tee starting at 8:25 a.m.
Marinell was the fourth Liberty golfer to tee off on the par 4 430-yard hole and he used the steady conditions of the early morning hours to his advantage to make the turn at three-under par.
After coming up short on the 125-yard No. 12 par 3, Marinell was able to sink a putt from the fringe to find red numbers just three holes into the day.
After a scramble par on the par 5 No. 13 hole and a routine par on the par 4 No. 14, Marinell was able to overcome the distance of No. 15 (470 yards, the longest par 4 on the course) by snaking in a 25-foot birdie putt to drop to two-under on the day.
A gentle breeze started to pick up when Marinell came to the home hole, the par 5 No. 18, forcing the sophomore to lay up on his second shot. The choice proved to be a wise one, as the he was able to spin a wedge from 100 yards out to within four feet for birdie.
Marinell looked like he might take advantage of another par 5 at No. 2, as he was 40 yards out after two shots. However, his chip up would not release correctly and he had to settle for a two-putt par.
On the next hole, Marinell was able to overcome an errant tee shot that left him on a bank to the right of the green on the par 3 No. 3 hole. Marinell's solid short game continued to pay dividends for the sophomore as a chip up and a par saving seven-footer kept him at three-under par through 12 holes.
However, Marinell would finally drop his first shot of the day on the next hole, as he missed just right on the uphill dogleg par 4 No. 4. After burning his putt from the fringe well by the hole, Marinell missed the comeback attempt to fall back to two-under par.
The sophomore had three other chances during his closing stretch of five holes with putts of 15 feet or less for birdie, but none of them would fall into the cup. On the day, Marinell finished by hitting 10-of-14 fairways, 10-of-18 greens and finished with 25 total putts.
Dating back to the last two tournaments Liberty has played in, Marinell has now carded six out of his last seven rounds at or below par.
Karlsson followed Marinell's lead by taking advantage of good scoring conditions on the front side, posting birdies on No. 12 and 14 to make the turn at two-under par.
The two-time Big South Golfer of the Year got to three-under par after a birdie on the par 5 No. 6 hole, but quickly gave it back after missing a short par putt on the par 3 No. 7 hole.
Fenasse wasn't as lucky on his opening nine holes as Karlsson and Marinell were, as he offset a pair of birdies with bogeys at No. 11, 15 and 16 to make the turn at one-over par.
He dropped another shot on the par 4 No. 1 hole, but was able to correct things with a birdie at No. 3. The freshman was able to post his sixth career sub-par round with lengthy birdie putts on his third and second to last holes. He dropped in a 30-footer on the par 3 No. 7 hole and drained a 40-footer uphill on the par 4 No. 8 hole.
Lindstrom got into a hole quickly after carding a double bogey six on the par 4 No. 11 hole. However, he dropped a shot with a birdie at the par 4 No. 14 hole and recorded the only of the entire first day on the home No. 18 hole to make the turn at one-under par.
The sophomore found trouble on holes No. 1 and 3 to fall back to one-over par, but carded a birdie on No. 7 hole for his 16th career round at par or better for Liberty.
McConnell struggled out of the gates with a bogey on the No. 10 and a double bogey on No. 11. During his remaining 16 holes, he was able to post birdies on No. 15, 2 and 8, but followed with five additional bogeys and a double bogey to tie his highest 18-hole score of the 2011-12 season.
Liberty, along with golfers SMU and Tulsa, will be sent off the No. 1 tee, starting at 9:15 a.m., tomorrow morning at the Grandover Resort East Course for the second round of the NCAA Greensboro Regional.
Live scoring following each hole throughout the NCAA Greensboro Regional will once again be provided by Golfstat.com, while Liberty will continue its social media coverage of the golf team through its Twitter feed.