Duke took a six-stroke lead over defending champion Southern California on Thursday in the third round of the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship, and the Blue Devils’ Celine Boutier tied the Trojans’ Doris Chen atop the individual standings.
Duke matched top-ranked Southern California with a 2-under 278 to reach 16-over 856. Second-round leader Oklahoma struggled to an 11-over 291 to drop into third at 26 over. UCLA was fourth at 27 over, followed by Mississippi State at 30 over, and Arizona, Arizona State and North Carolina State at 31 over.
Boutier led Duke with a 3-under 67 to match Chen at 3-under 207. Chen had a 68. Iowa State’s Chonlada Chayunun, Michigan State’s Alysssa Ferrell and Stanford’s Lauren Kim were even par.
The Blue Devils four counting players had five birdies on the final four holes. Yu Liu shot 68, Alejandra Cangrejo 71, Latitia Beck 72 and Sandy Choi 74. The top four of five scores count in the team total.
"I was watching on 14 and we made several bogeys there and I knew USC was closing in," said Duke coach Dan Brooks, seeking the school’s sixth national championship — including 1999 in the hail-shortened event at Tulsa Country Club. "We made some good birdies on the closing holes that were big for us.
"The girls played very well today. The wind blew again, but it was a little more predictable and not as gusty. They stayed patient. We had our share of mistakes and some went in the water, but they recovered emotionally and it was great."
In addition to Chen’s 68, USC counted a Kyung Kim’s 67, Sophia Popov’s 70 and Karen Chung’s 73. Defending NCAA champion Annie Park shot 76.
Instead of giving her squad a pep talk Wednesday night, USC coach Andrea Gaston sent her team out to individual dinners with their families.
"We knew they would fuel their own fire after yesterday," Gaston said. "There was really nothing more we could say. They would have to figure it out."
Duke won titles in 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007, and USC won in 2003, 2008 and 2013.
"I knew they were lurking back there," Brooks said. "They just took their time. They are a really great team and have a lot of talent and drive in their players. We have to get after it tomorrow."
Oklahoma, which has never won, made it into the final pairing thanks to Kaitlyn Rohrback’s 71. She was 4 over after a double bogey on the sixth hole, but made four birdies against one bogey coming in.
Chirapat Jao-Javanil, the 2002 champion, had a 71. Second-round individual leader Alexandra Kaui had a triple bogey on the par-5 third hole and a quadruple-bogey 7 on the sixth to shoot 80 and fall into a tie for 16th.
"We’ve got 18 holes to play and anything can happen," Sooners coach Veronique Drouin-Littrell said. "We kind of had a tough day today. Alexandra is a freshman and I’m sure she’s mad now but she’ll bounce back and be ready to contribute tomorrow."