Round 3 recap: USC 18 holes away from a 'ship

USC is still comfortably on top after the third round of the NCAA women's golf championships, cruising with a 17-stroke lead going into the final round on Friday. Like Wednesday, the Pac-12 still has four teams - USC, UCLA, Arizona State and Stanford - in the top seven, while Arizona and Oregon are in the bottom half of the 24-team field.


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Only three teams shot under par today; of course the Women of Troy would be one of them. It didn't look like USC would be part of the small red number brigade Thursday, but a strong finish (the top-four golfers shot a combined 7-under over the last four holes) got the Women of Troy to 3-under for the day and 19-under for the tournament. The lead for USC going into the final round is rather large - try 17 strokes. Andrea Gaston's gals have a monopoly on the No. 1 spot on both leaderboards, as Annie Park went birdie-birdie on 17 and 18 to finish 2-under on the day and take a two-stroke lead into Friday at 9-under. Her closest competitors? A couple of SEC ladies in Mississippi State's Ally McDonald and Alabama's Stephanie Meadow (it sure sounds like player of the year is coming down to Park and Meadow) are both 7-under. If you want to extrapolate one more spot out, Park's teammate Kyung Kim carded her second straight 69 to get to 4-under and have fourth place all to herself. There are still 18 holes to play, but it doesn't sound like there will be as much drama as there was last year to decide the women's golf championship.

 


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In what was a theme for many on the University of Georgia Golf Course, UCLA had its highest round of the tournament on Thursday, shooting 297 (+9) to fall to 9-over on the tournament. But, since the course didn't play favorites, UCLA did not suffer a fall on the team leaderboard and currently resides in a tie for fourth with - who else - Purdue (the Boilermakers must really be getting sick of the Pac-12 company they're keeping: first tied for fifth with UCLA, then tied for fifth with Stanford, now UCLA again). No under-par golfers for Carrie Forsyth's fivesome, but Tiffany Lua did shoot even par Thursday to remain 3-over on the tournament, the same score Lee Lopez has after a third-round 77 dropped her 14 spots on the player leader board (both are in a tie for 24th). Erynne Lee was 1-over on the round; a 73 turned out to be a pretty good score, because the sophomore All-American fell just one spot into a tie for seventh at 2-under, seven strokes off the lead.


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If not for a stumble down the stretch, Arizona State could have ended the day in the top five. As it is, the Sun Devils improved one spot from Wednesday to sixth place thanks to an 8-over 296 that has them at +12 through 54 holes. With a bit of a Friday push, the Forks can improve upon their 2012 NCAA championships finish of tied for sixth. If they are to do so, it will take one more solid round from Noemi Jimenez - the first-team All-Pac-12 sophomore shot even par Thursday to remain 3-under for the tournament. Her three-day total of 213 has her six shots behind Park and tied for fifth. It was a pretty ho-hum day for Jimenez with just one bogey, one birdie and 16 pars otherwise. Laura Blanco also chipped in a solid round with a 1-over 73 and is now tied for 17th at +1.


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Why was the course playing so tough on Thursday? Well for starters, it was pretty windy:

 
 

It caused a rough start for Stanford, which had three of its golfers record a double-bogey on the front nine. The back nine was friendlier to Anne Walker's young women, but the Cardinal ended having its highest round by 11 strokes with a 301 (+13) that dropped the Card to eighth at 15-over. Lauren Kim was the low Card today at 1-over, while Georgia native Mariah Stackhouse (aka @MoStacksBirdies - I still can't get over how awesome that Twitter handle is) shot a 74 to drop to 2-under and stay in a tie for seventh. Stanford's top-two golfers for the tournament both are freshmen - good sign for the future of Cardinal women's golf. At the very least, it looks like Stanford will vastly improve upon its last-place finish at this event in 2012.


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First, let's tell you how the 'Cats completed their second round (remember, they didn't quite finish yesterday):

 
 

Now, let's tell you how the 'Cats completed their third round: 9-over to jump into a tie for 13th at 26-over. Manon Gidali had the best round of the day for Laura Ianello and friends, registering a 73 with the help of a couple of birdies in the first half of her round. She is now 6-over for the tournament, two shots off the team low set by Andrea Vilarasau, who ended up birdieing her 18th hole of the second round earlier in the day to complete her second round at even par (she was +4 today).

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The Ducks didn't quite match their Wednesday 295, also pulling off a 297 (+9) Thursday to finish the round in 17th place at 29-over three-quarters of the way through this thing. Cassy Isagawa put another red number on the board today after a slow start, finishing the round 2-under despite bogeying two of her first four holes. It's the second consecutive under-par round for Isagawa, who is now even par for the tournament. Currently tied for 14th, Isagawa has a realistic shot of becoming the first Oregon women's golfer to finish in the top 10 on the player leaderboard. Remember how Hanule Sky Seo aced No. 8 yesterday? Well she did this today:

Sky Seo carded a 73 today and is now 8-over for the tournament.


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Ying Luo finished with her highest round of the tournament thus far, signing off on a scorecard that read "77" on Thursday. Washington's lone representative in Athens is now 7-over through 54 holes and is now tied for 50th. She is no longer the top individual golfer playing without her teammates, as Erica Popson of Tennessee is 4-over.

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