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USC takes early lead over Bama, UCLA at NCAAs

Jennifer Kupcho
Getty Images
Jennifer Kupcho  - 

The NCAA Women’s Championship got underway Friday with the first round of stroke-play qualifying at Karsten Creek.

The top 15 teams after 54 holes of stroke play advance to Monday’s final round. After 72 holes are completed, an individual champion is crowned and there is an additional cut, to the low eight teams, to determine the single-elimination, match-play bracket.

Here’s what you need to know after Round 1:

Leader (click here for full team scores): Southern Cal (+3)

Second place: Alabama (+4)

Inside the top 8: UCLA (+6), Kent State (+8), Duke (+10), Northwestern (+11), Louisville (+13), Arizona (+13), Florida State (+13)

Work to do: Washington (+15), Florida (+15), Stanford (+20), Arkansas (+20), Texas (+21), Furman (+23), Arizona State (+26)

Individual leader (click here for full individual scores): Jennifer Kupcho (pictured), Wake Forest (-7)

Skinny: Despite a lineup with four freshmen and one sophomore, USC jumped out to an early lead at Karsten Creek, as their four counters shot 74 or better on arguably the most difficult college course in the country. The Trojans are one of only two teams that have advanced to match play each of the three years it has been used to crown a national champion. They have 13 consecutive top-5 finishes overall. … After missing match play each of the past two years as one of the top teams, Alabama is off to a much better start, with soon-to-be-pro Cheyenne Knight leading the way with a 2-under 70. … Overall, four of the top six teams in the country are positioned within the top 5 after Day 1. The lone exceptions? Second-ranked Arkansas and perennial NCAA favorite Stanford, both of which shot 20 over par on Friday. Seventh-ranked Furman also shot 23 over in the opening round. The good news here is that they’re already near the top-15 cut line, and Arkansas and Stanford are only seven shots back of eighth place after one round. That’s not a large deficit on a course this difficult. … Defending NCAA champion Arizona State sits 22nd out of 24 teams. … Annika Award favorite Maria Fassi, a junior at Arkansas, opened with a 9-over 81. In the opening round, Fassi was beat by 16 shots by Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho. A year ago at the NCAA Championship, Kupcho had a two-shot lead with two holes to play but triple-bogeyed the 71st hole, after finding the water with her approach shot. On Friday, she eagled her last hole for a 7-under 65 to open up a three-shot lead. She's coming off a victory at the NCAA regionals. … Three other Annika Award contenders shot par or better on Friday: UCLA’s Patty Tavatanakit (71), Duke’s Leona Maguire (72) and UCLA’s Lilia Vu (72).