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Host UNLV tops elite field at Southern Highlands

Southern Highlands
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UNLV sure knows how to summon its best golf in the biggest regular-season event of the season.

Using their home-course advantage, the Rebels, No. 37 in Golfstat’s rankings, won the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters on Sunday by two shots over No. 2 Oklahoma State and No. 10 Stanford.

UNLV won the event, ranked annually as the strongest and deepest in the regular season, at 22-over 886, marking the team’s fourth title in the past six years, and seventh in the past 13. Prior to this victory, the Rebels hadn’t finished better than eighth in their past three starts.

Meanwhile, Alabama finished tied for fourth (with UCLA), 11 shots back, capping a disappointing week for the nation’s top-ranked team. Last Tuesday, the defending NCAA champion Tide’s 11-event win streak came to an end in Cabo, then shot three consecutive rounds of 11-over 299 in Vegas. On Monday, they will be recognized by President Barack Obama at the White House.

Stanford junior Patrick Rodgers became the first player to successfully defend his title at the Southern Highlands. His final-round 74, and three-round total of 1-over 217, was good enough for a two-shot victory over six players, including Oklahoma State’s Wyndham Clark, the eighth-ranked player in the country.

It was Rodgers’ eighth career college title, moving him to second on the school’s all-time list, behind only Tiger Woods (11). Last week, Rodgers announced that he would turn pro after this year’s NCAA Championship.

UNLV was led by Kurt Kitayama (T-2) and Carl Jonson (T-8), both of whom finished inside the top 10. The Rebels also won the team title here in 2009, 2010 (shared with UCLA) and 2012. Beating many of the nation’s top teams in college golf’s regular-season major hasn’t translated to postseason success, however. The Rebels didn’t even advance past NCAA regionals in either 2009 or 2012.