TULSA, Okla. – No. 6 Washington improved by 10 strokes on Wednesday, but fell to a tie for ninth after two rounds at the NCAA Championships at the Tulsa Country Club. The Dawgs shot a round of 9-over 289 and are now 28-over for the tournament, 13 strokes off the lead.
Less wind led to lower scores across the board with the Huskies firing the 10th-best round of the day. No. 7 Oklahoma continues to lead at 15-over, but the leaderboard is tightly bunched. No. 3 Duke is second at 18-under, followed by No. 5 Arizona State at 20-over. A trio of Pac-12 schools: No. 1 USC, No. 2 UCLA and No. 11 Arizona are tied for fourth at 24-over, while another conference rival, Stanford, is seventh at 26-over. No. 27 Mississippi State is just one better than the Dawgs at 27-over in eighth, while No. 20 Michigan State is in the tie with Washington after the best round of the day.
“We got off to a rough start, again,” said head coach Mary Lou Mulflur. “SooBin and Jen started off pretty well, but you have to have everyone contribute. We made 15 birdies and ended up 9-over par. That is 24-over par the rest of the way.”
SooBin Kim did start off well, but it was the way she finished that saw her shoot up the leaderboard. The Husky senior tied for the low round of the day with a 3-under 67 to move from a tie for 54th after round one all the way up to a tie for 13th. Kim is now 3-over for the tournament, eight strokes back of Alexandra Kaui of Oklahoma, who leads after also shooting a 67.
“I feel like I really needed a low round today," said Kim. "Yesterday I felt really unconfident after the round. I was hitting it well on the range today. I just kept it under control. I think today is a real confidence builder to play another two rounds.”
Kim played a near flawless first nine, holes 10-18 for the Huskies at 3-under 32. She made the turn to the harder nine and began to struggle, bogeying holes 2, 4 and 5 to drop back to even par on the day. That is when the putter got hot as Kim made three-straight birdies on 6, 7 and 8.
“Putting would have to be my biggest strength today," said Kim. "Coach was walking with me for 18 holes today and she was trying to keep me motivated and relaxed. I picked my line and my stroke was good so I was just trusting everything, trusting my number and trusting my line.”
Kim made long putts on all three holes and nearly another on 9, but it was her approach on 8 that might have been the shot of the tournament so far.
She hooked her drive and appeared to be in jail along the left tree line. Instead, Kim found a narrow gap through the trees and executed the shot to within 18-20 feet of the pin. She made that putt as the second of three long putts on her string of birdies.
“I got really lucky because I was beside a tree with a downslope lie and in a divot, but I had a little opening," said Kim. "It was kind of a U-shape between the trees. I told coach that I think I can hit it through there and she said that she thought I could too. I just focused on my target and figured whatever happens, happens. I am a gutsy player so I had to at least try it. Coach trusted me and I was trusting my shot. I got it just through the gap and then it drew a little bit towards the pin. I was like: Whew!”
“She had one of those shots that you had to keep down and then get up," said Mulflur. "She just creased a 5-iron, hit it beautifully to about 20 feet. She went on a nice run there.”
Jennifer Yang also played well, firing a round of 1-over 71 to move up into a tie for 31st at 6-over for the tournament. Yang made five birdies, but also had five bogeys on another tough day for scoring. Although the winds were calmer than the opening round, they were still very much a factor.
Charlotte Thomas birdied the last to help save a round of 5-over 75. She dropped back to a tie for 50th at 9-over, making four-straight bogeys on holes 14-17.
The final score used by the Dawgs was a 6-over 76 from Kelli Bowers. The Husky senior bounced back from a tough opening round with a more consistent day two. She made a costly double-bogey on the par-five third, but immediately responded by birdying the fourth, showing nice resiliency.
Ying Luo rounded out the Huskies squad, shooting a round of 8-over 78. Luo dropped back to a tie for 74th at 12-over.
Washington will be in the afternoon wave on Thursday as they continue from the Tulsa Country Club with the third round. The Dawgs hope to go low to get within a manageable number for Friday’s final round.
The final round will have a webcast available on holes 16, 17 and 18 HERE.