ATHENS, Ga. – With 18 holes remaining at the 2013 NCAA Championship, the top-seeded and third-ranked Duke women’s golf team is in second place, after carding an one-under-par, 287, on Thursday at the 6,372-yard, par 72 University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens, Ga.
The Blue Devils will have to make up a lot of ground in Friday’s final round as Duke trails Southern California by 17 strokes as the Trojans own a 54-hole total of 845, which is 19-under-par. Duke is the only other team under par in the field as the Blue Devils hold a two-under-par, 862. Rounding out the top 10 teams are Purdue (873), Alabama (873), UCLA (873), Arizona State (876), Stanford (879), Tulane (881), Oklahoma (882), Auburn (882) and San Jose State (882). Duke’s 54-hole total of 862 is a new school record in NCAA Championship action.
“I’m just really proud of my team,” commented Duke head coach Dan Brooks. “I taught them a word today: unflappable. They were unflappable today. They were not affected. When they did something great, they kept going, when they did something not so great, they kept going. They kept their chins up. That’s all you can do. They watched USC play a lot of good golf, but they just kept doing their thing. For a while we were moving up on them and it just didn’t quite stay that way, but tomorrow is another day.”
In the previous tournament, the Blue Devils trailed host Oklahoma at the NCAA Central Regional by six strokes entering the final round and came-from-behind on the final day to win by six strokes as Duke shot 12-under-par.
Boutier enters the final round tied for fifth with a three-under-par, 213. A product of Montrouge, France, Boutier has equaled her best 54-hole total of the season with rounds of 69, 73 and 71. She now owns 11 rounds this year of even or under par. On Thursday, she kicked off her day by rolling in a seven-foot birdie putt on hole No. 1, but suffered back-to-back bogeys on No. 5 and No. 6 to drop to one-over-par. Boutier stuck her approach on the 156-yard, par three eighth and rolled in her second birdie of the day to get back to even par.
“I think it was pretty good today,” commented Boutier on her round. “The wind made it tough so my irons and distance were good. I just have to work on my putting a little bit because I had a lot of birdie putts that didn’t drop.”
After a bogey on No. 11 where she hit her drive in the ditch, Boutier collected a birdie on the 159-yard, par three 13th for the third straight day as she hit her approach to within two feet. She added another birdie on No. 17 closing with a 71. She hit 13 fairways, 12 greens and had 29 putts on the day.
Duncan notched her sixth consecutive round of even or under par with a 71 in the third round and is tied for seventh overall with a 214. Duncan, who is from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., will aim for a third straight top 10 finish at the NCAA Championship, which would mark only the second Blue Devil to accomplish the feat (Amanda Blumenherst).
“It feels pretty good,” said Duncan. “I don’t know exactly what everyone else shot, but I think Celine (Boutier) played really well. The conditions were really tough today, but we played really strong golf today. We were patient, and hopefully we’re within striking distance for tomorrow. I felt like the wind started picking up more on the back nine, and it was blowing pretty hard at times, but it wasn’t really consistent all day.”
Duncan opened the round with a bogey on No. 2, but went on to register a 15-foot birdie putt on the fifth hole to get back to even. She had another bogey on No. 7, but connected on an 11-footer for birdie on the eighth hole to remain even. After her third bogey on No. 9 where she could not get it up-and-down from off the green, Duncan closed with birdies on No. 12 and No. 15 to finish with a 71. The reigning National Player of the Year nearly posted an eagle on the 12th hole and stuck a 9-iron to within four feet on the 15th for her late birdies.
She said she had the hole of her tournament on the 480-yard, par five 17th as she hit her drive to the right and duffed a four-iron, which rolled down the cart path to 130 yards away from the pin. Duncan hooked her five-iron on the next shot, but was able to chip it to four feet, before rolling in a very delicate putt for par. On the day, she hit 12 greens, 10 fairways and had 29 putts.
A native of Caesarea, Israel, Beck notched 15 pars on the day to go along with two birdies and one bogey. She enters the final round tied for 28th overall with a 217. Beck opened the round with four pars and then rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 399-yard, par four fifth. Her only blemish on the scorecard was on No. 13 as she was left with a very unlucky putt as the ball stopped on the top of the green. Beck was forced to putt to the left and let the ball feed down the green and ended up with a three-putt. She drained a 16-footer for birdie on 16, before closing with two pars. Beck hit 14 greens, 13 fairways and had 31 putts.
Senior Courtney Ellenbogen had a slow start to her day as she totaled bogeys on the first and second holes and then double-bogeyed the par five seventh. Ellenbogen, who is out of Blacksburg, Va., regrouped and went on a tear with three consecutive birdies on No. 8, No. 9 and No. 10. Of her three straight birdies, two were under four feet in distance as Ellenbogen was hitting her approach shots close most of the day. She kept the momentum going with six pars, before suffering a bogey on No. 17 as she finished with a two-over-par, 74. She is tied for 28th overall with a 220. Ellenbogen had 12 greens, 12 fairways and had 30 putts to go along with two up-and-downs.
Alejandra Cangrejo couldn’t get her putter going on Thursday and played a front nine of seven-over-par, 42, before settling down to finish with an 80. The Bogota, Colombia, product had a total of 36 putts on the day, while hitting 10 greens and nine fairways. Cangrejo played the final nine holes at one-over-par looking to come back strong on Friday.
Duke will tee off on Friday in the final round beginning at 12:58 p.m., along with Southern California and Purdue. Fans can follow the action live online at NCAA.com with a video stream of holes No. 18 and No. 9 starting at 12 p.m.
Notes: • Duke has won five NCAA Championships over the years – 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007. • The Blue Devils have 12 top-five finishes in the NCAA Championship with the last one coming in 2008 as Duke placed third. • The previous 54-hole best ledger in NCAA Championship action for Duke was 865 in 2004 in Auburn, Ala. • Lindy Duncan now owns a school-record seven under-par rounds in the NCAA Championship. She broke Amanda Blumenherst’s mark of five.