TULSA, Okla. -- Looking for its sixth NCAA Championship,third-ranked Duke made its move Thursday as the Blue Devils carded a tied for team-best third round of two-under-par, 278, and will enter the final round at the 6,174 yard, par 70 Tulsa Country Club with a six stroke lead.
Duke sophomore Celine Boutier carded a three-under, 67, Thursday to move into a share of the individual lead with a three-day ledger of 207 along with Southern California’s Doris Chen. Boutier and Chen are the only individuals under par through 54 holes.
As a team, Duke has improved its score each round posting a 293, 285 and 278 for a three-day ledger of 856. Southern California (862) turned in a two-under, 278, in the third round to move into second and 36-hole leader Oklahoma fired an 11-over, 291, to drop to third (866). Rounding out the top 10 were UCLA (867), Mississippi State (870), Arizona State (871), Arizona (871), NC State (871), Tulane (871), Ohio State (878) and Northwestern (878).
“They played really well,” Duke head coach Dan Brooks commented on the Blue Devils in the third round. “We had wind again, but it was a little more predictable and a little less gusty. They stayed patient. We had our share of mistakes and went into some water, normal things that happen in a round of golf, but they just recovered emotionally and it was great. I was happy to see those birdies. I was on 14 and saw us give up a couple when USC was getting birdies, but then within a few holes we were getting birdies again.”
Boutier, who is out of Montrouge, France, totaled her best round of the tournament with four birdies and only one bogey Thursday on her way to carding her 19th round this season of even or under par. The 2014 ACC Player of the Year carded three pars before posting back-to-back birdies on No. 4 and No. 5 to move to two-under. Boutier placed her approach shot on the 356-yard, par four fifth hole to within a foot and tapped in for birdie.
“I felt like I didn’t play much better than the previous two days, I just didn’t make any mistakes on the tee shots,” commented Boutier. “I didn’t make any double-bogeys and I was pretty consistent throughout the round.”
She went par, birdie and bogey to open the back nine, but responded with her fourth birdie on No. 15 to remain at three-under for the day. Boutier nearly drained birdies on the final three holes, but her putts just slipped by the cup. Her round of 67 is the third-lowest 18-hole ledger by a Duke golfer in school history.
After totaling rounds of 75 and 76 the first two days, ACC Rookie of the Year Yu Liu posted a two-under, 68, Thursday to move up 32 spots on the individual leaderboard to tied for 35th with a 219. Liu, a product of Beijing, China, registered a team-best five birdies on the day, including three in her final six holes.
Liu opened her day with a par on No. 1, before carding back-to-back birdies on No. 2 and No. 3 to move to two-under. She suffered bogeys on No. 4 and No. 8 to make the turn at even par. After totaling pars on the first three holes on the back nine, Liu drove the 276-yard, par four 13 green with a wood and ended up making birdie to get back to one-under. She hit her tee shot on the par three 14th to the left of the green and made birdie to fall back to even. Liu was able to close with birdies on No. 16 and No. 18 to finish at two-under. She flew the green on the 16th hole and drained a four-foot birdie putt, while holing a seven-foot birdie on No. 18. She is tied 35th heading into the final round with a 219.
Senior Alejandra Cangrejo posted a round of one-over-par, 71, on the third day and is only three-over-par during the last two days of action. A native of Bogota, Colombia, Cangrejo is tied 57th with a 222. Her round started slow with bogeys on No. 1 and No. 9, but totaled seven pars in-between. She collected key up-and-downs on the seventh and eighth holes to keep her score low. On the back nine, Cangrejo totaled pars on the first three holes, before going birdie, bogey and birdie on holes No. 13, No. 14 and No. 15. Her birdie on No. 13 was from 12 feet, while she drained a 24-foot birdie on the 15th to get back to one-under. She hit five fairways, 11 greens and had 28 putts on the day. Cangrejo added five key up-and-downs on the day.
Notching her second consecutive round of 72, Laetitia Beck will enter the final round tied 41st with a 220. Beck, who is out of Caesarea, Israel, totaled pars on her first two holes, but missed the green on the 538-yard, par five third hole and suffered a bogey. She responded with a birdie on No. 4, but just missed the green on the fifth hole and had another bogey to fall back to one-under. Beck carded four straight pars to make the turn at one-over-36.
On the back nine, Beck had a three-putt bogey on No. 10 and a bogey on No. 13 to fall back to three-over for the day. She collected her second birdie of the day to get back to two-over on the 466-yard, par five 16th as she rolled in a five-foot putt. Beck hit 15 greens, six fairways and had 35 putts on the day.
After totaling rounds of 72 and 71 the first two days, freshman Sandy Choi added a four-over, 74, Thursday and is now tied 20th overall with a 217. A product of San Diego, Calif., Choi was four-over on the front nine as she totaled bogeys on No. 2 and No. 8 along with a double-bogey on the challenging, 161-yard, par three sixth hole. She played the back nine at even par with seven pars, a birdie on No. 11 and a bogey on No. 16, after hitting her second shot in the sand trap.
Tee times were moved up 30 minutes in the final round due to the threat of inclement weather. Duke will tee off beginning at 12:26 p.m. ET on Friday, along with Southern California and Oklahoma.
“My memory isn’t very good,” Brooks said on winning in Tulsa in 1999. “The thing I remember the most is during the hailstorm all the hours we spent in this building playing cards, killing time because we were always hoping we could go back out to finish that final round. We had the lead so that is how we won after three days. The course is a lot different, they redesigned it, and I think I have more memories from the preview this fall than from before.”