NCAA men's golf championship: Oregon's magical story finally ends, but what a story it was

Oregon Athletics

With late afternoon shadows creeping across the 17th green at Rich Harvest Farms Wednesday, the clock finally struck zero on Oregon's two-season spell of golf magic. 

Oklahoma's Brad Dalke nailed a three-foot putt to clinch victory in his match over the Ducks' Sulman Raza, netting an NCAA title for the Sooners and denying Oregon's bid for a repeat. 

Up until that dagger, Raza had been literally unbeatable in similar situations: The senior had clinched four matches over the past two NCAA Golf Championships, including the 2016 national title and the semifinal against No. 1 Vanderbilt on Tuesday.

Raza entered his duel against Dalke 5-0 in match play over his career, so as it became apparent throughout the afternoon that this five-leg compeition would again come down to both teams' closers, Oregon had every reason to brim with confidence. 

But it was not to be for the Ducks. Dalke grabbed the lead on the 12th hole. He wouldn't relinquish it -- although Raza, true to form, wouldn't go down without a fight. He staved off elimination by knifing a clutch do-or-die putt through the pressure cooker on the 16th hole, before Dalke sealed the deal on 17. 

Wyndham Clark delivered the Ducks' only match win, dispatching of Oklahoma's Rylee Reinertson by one hole. Oregon's Ryan Gronlund finished tied with the Sooners' Grant Hirschman, while the Ducks' Norman Xiong and Edwin Yi both lost their matches at the front end of play. 

That put Oregon in an 0-2 hole, forcing the remaining three players to sweep their matches. Only Clark prevailed, and Dalke eliminated Raza before Gronlund and Hirschman could resolve their tie. 

And just like that, the Ducks' dream of a repeat trophy hoisting ended -- but not until after they had notched another fantastic run. 

Consider just how much coach Casey Martin's squad accomplished a season after its monumental national championship, won in front of a raucuous and partisan gallery in Eugene: Though many pundits tabbed this as a rebuilding year for the Ducks, they grabbed both the team and individual Pac-12 championships before embarking on a prodigious tear at the NCAA tournament. 

The run itself was one for the books: Oregon was all but dead on the final day of stroke play, but -- almost miraculously -- managed to make up eight shots to squeak on top of the cut and advance to match play. There, the Ducks dispatched of both Oklahoma State and top-seeded Vanderbilt -- the match play favorite -- in dramatic fashion on Raza closes.

The magical story finally came to an end on the 17th hole against Oklahoma on Wednesday, but what a story it was. 

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