No. 1 USC Moves Into 2nd Place Ahead Of NCAA Championships Final Round
May 22, 2014
Sophomore Kyung Kim fired a 3-under 67 while junior Doris Chen's 2-under 68 gave her a share of the individual lead, the two low scores leading No. 1 USC's charge into contention after the third round of the 2014 NCAA Women's Golf Championships at the Tulsa (Okla.) C.C. on Thursday (May 22).
The defending national champion Trojans bounced back from a pair of tough rounds with a 2-under 278, its second-best team effort at an NCAA Championships in program history. It dropped USC to 22-over 862 (293-291-278), alone in second, six back of first-place Duke, which turned in its own 278 today.
Round 2 leader Oklahoma is third at 26-over 866 and will join the Trojans and Blue Devils in the final pairing tomorrow. UCLA is fourth at 27-over 867 while Mississippi State is fifth at 30-over 870.
USC, which also got a big bounce-back even par round from senior Sophia Popov, is looking to become the first repeat NCAA champion since Duke won three in a row between 2005-07. The Trojans are nine-time winners this season, which broke last year's school season-record of seven.
"The conditions certainly were a lot better today and there was a better possibility of a good score," Coach Andrea Gaston said. "The back 9 definitely produced a lot of birdies and that was the difference maker. I felt like the front 9 was still giving us problems.
"(Before the round) I told the team there was still two days left, if we could just hang in there and make some good shots. We were hoping to improve on the front 9. I still don't think we've figured it out but obviously the back 9 has been good to our team and we had some birdies to keep ourselves in the game. I'm proud of our girls for their perseverance."
Chen, trying to become USC's fifth individual champion, now sits at 3-under 207 (67-72-68), tied with Duke's Celine Boutier for the individual lead, and has produced two rounds in the 60s in the same event for the first time as a Trojan. Her five rounds in the 60s this year are a career best.
She opened the third wound with a bogey on one, but got to par with a birdie on the tough 6th hole after saving par on 5 with an amazing second shot through the trees on the right side of the fairway. Her back 9 featured birdies on 13 and 16 and with just-missed birdie putts on 17 and 18.
Said Chen: "The first couple of holes I wasn't hitting as well as I would like. I just wanted to stay patient and make some pars. And I was fortunate to get some birdie chances. It was quite steady today."
Kim rebounded from her first two rounds with a six-birdie round, including five on a 4-under back 9 and is now tied for 27th at 8-over 218 (77-74-67). Her 67 is her 10th round in the 60s this year, tying her with sophomore teammate Annie Park for the most ever in a season at USC. It's also her 16th of her career, behind only Popov (21) in USC's career standings.
Said Kim: "Everything started to go well. I started to hit some solid shots and ended being close to the pin and just putted well. Everything just kind of clicked."
Popov shrugged off her back-to-back 79s with a 70 Thursday. She got off to a slow start on the front at 3-over, but sandwiched a bogey on 14 with birdies on 12, 13, 15 and 16 to get to even for the round.
"I'm proud of the way she fought back today," Gaston said. "She's been struggling in the postseason, but was able to put it behind her today. She's been such a huge part of our program the past four years and I'm happy to see her have a great round today."
Sophomore Karen Chung is tied for 20th at 7-over 217 (74-70-73) after her third straight solid round which included two birdies. It had the potential of an even lower round despite losing a stroke on an errant tee shot on 3, but she had a few birdie putts stop just short.
Sophomore Annie Park is tied for 84th at 16-over 226 (75-75-76) and is still looking to put together a strong round on the course. She was 1-over through 8, but 5-over the rest of the round.