On a picturesque final day at TPC Myrtle Beach, the best teams in the Myrtle Beach Regional separated themselves from the 14-team field. The top five teams entering the final round – Ohio State, Illinois, Wake Forest, UNLV and
California – took advantage of benign conditions and earned spots in the NCAA Championship in Fayetteville, Ark., but the day wasn’t without drama.
Illinois, which entered the third round at -9 under par, two strokes back of leader Ohio State, played a brilliant final 18 holes. The Illini, led by Michael Feagles, who fired a 7-under 65, were -16 under as a team on Wednesday and -25 under for the 54-hole event, leaving them 5 strokes clear of Ohio State. Each of Illinois’ top 4 scorers shot 70 or better, riding an early surge that carried them throughout the round. Having been to nationals 12 years in a row, the Illini is no stranger to the big stage, but this year’s team, with two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior in the lineup, is a young one. “We talked a lot of about presence, about how you approach the last round, how you go get it.” Coach Mike Small said his senior-less squad. “You look at the positive side of (playing in the final round), without really caring about the outcome as much. They all grabbed a hold of it and they all played with that strength today. It was inspiring to watch.” Feagles finished the regional at -15 under par, one better than Oregon’s Edwin Yi, to lead the 75-player field.
Ohio State finished second at -20 under, and No. 3 Wake Forest, the pre-tournament favorite was third at -15 under. The biggest move of the day was made by Cal. The 10th ranked Bears entered the round in fifth place at -2 under par, leaving them in jeopardy of missing nationals, but, led by Collin Morikawa’s 5-under 67, they cruised into fourth place. Cal shot -12 under as a team on Wednesday. The real drama was the battle between UNLV and Florida State for the final spot in nationals. The Rebels were in the clubhouse at -8 under, but their trip to the NCAA Championship wasn’t secure until Jaimie Li’s eagle putt on the par 5 18th hole at TPC just missed, leaving the Seminoles one shot out of a playoff. Li was disappointed to have missed the approximately 30-foot putt, but the birdie capped a brilliant back 9 back for the junior from England. Li made six birdies with nary a bogey en route to shooting 30 on the home nine, part of a final round 65. “The golf course was fantastic,” UNLV coach Dwaine Knight said. “It really tested us in a lot of different ways. I really think the teams that advanced are going to look back on this as being part of the ability to maybe win a national championship to play at a facility like this.”