The cream rose to the top Thursday at Tulsa Country Club.
No. 3-ranked Duke and top-ranked USC both carded sub-par totals during the third round of the Women's NCAA Division I Championships, and the Blue Devils will now begin the final round with a six-shot lead over the Trojans.
Duke began the day alone in second place, three shots behind Oklahoma, but moved to the top of the standings with a 2-under 278 total, paced by Celine Boutier's 3-under 67. Their 16-over 856 total through three rounds puts them 10 shots clear of the Sooners, who fell to third, and 11 shots ahead of fourth-place UCLA.
"We had wind again, but it was a little more predictable and a little less gusty. They stayed patient," said Duke head coach Dan Brooks. "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."
Oklahoma led after each of the first two rounds in Tulsa, but fell back with an 11-over 291 that was better than only one other team currently among the top 15. Freshman Alexandra Kaui, who entered the day as the top overall individual, shot a 10-over 80.
Boutier's 67 gave her a share of the individual lead along with USC's Doris Chen, who shot a 2-under 68. Both players are 3 under through 54 holes and sit three shots ahead of Iowa State's Chonlada Chayanun, Michigan State's Allyssa Ferrell and Stanford's Lauren Kim.
"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,” Boutier told reporters. “I didn’t make any double-bogeys and I was pretty consistent throughout the round.”
The low round of the day was a 5-under 65 turned in by Tulane's Emily Penttila, who moved up 26 spots into a tie for sixth in the individual race, four shots behind Boutier and Chen. The only teams to break par during the third round were Duke, USC and Tulane, who all shot 2-under 278. The Green Wave are alone in ninth behind fifth-place Mississippi State and three schools who are tied for sixth: Arizona, Arizona State and North Carolina State.
Duke is looking to win its sixth NCAA team title, and first since 2007. The Blue Devils captured the program's first national title at Tulsa Country Club back in 1999 and finished second behind the Trojans a year ago. USC is hoping to capture its fourth team title, all since 2003, and become the first repeat champs since Duke won three in a row from 2005-2007.