Alabama enters Friday's final round at 7-over-par 871, tied with Arizona State. Purdue charged into the lead with a third-round 8-under-par 280 – the lowest round of any team at the NCAA Championships this week. The Boilermakers took a seven-shot lead on USC. Southern Cal entered the day at 6-under-par, but shot 7-over 295 for a 1-over total of 865.
"Today was an important day to measure yourself," Alabama Coach Mic Potter said. "We are certainly not used to competing for national championships – that is something that you have to go through. Our three girls that have played well all year, played well today. They did what they had to do, but we just didn't get that fourth score, which has been our nemesis all year."
Alabama's trio of true freshman Jennifer Kirby, junior Camilla Lennarth and sophomore Brooke Pancake shot a combined 3-under par, but the fourth and final counting score was a 9-over-par 81 shot by both Rhea Nair and Helena Blomberg.
"Now we just have to come out and put together a solid round tomorrow and see what happens, Potter said. "We have to focus on the same thing we have all year and that is playing one shot at a time. That is all we have done this year, and what we preach all of the time. It doesn't matter what round it is or what tournament it is, we have to do the same thing."
UA is 13 strokes off the lead of Purdue and six shots back of second place USC. Alabama will play with Arizona and Vanderbilt in the next to last grouping of the final round, which begins teeing off at 11:30 a.m. (CDT) on Friday.
"The only way for us to shoot a low round tomorrow is to not go out and try too hard," Potter said. "We just have to play our game. We just need to pick our target, hitting our ball and committing to our shots. Trying hard in golf because it is the national championships and we know we have to make up 13 shots is only going to be detrimental. You just have to go out there and get in your zone, play your way and put quality shots together."
Kirby paced the Crimson Tide on Thursday with a 2-under-par 70 to move into a tie for seventh place in the individual standings at 1-under-par 215. She went out in 2-over 38 with bogeys on the fourth and fifth holes but carded an impressive 4-under 32 on the back nine with no bogeys and four birdies on 10, 12, 15 and 18.
Lennarth fired her first under-par round of the tournament with a 1-under 71. She birdied the first and fourth holes with a bogey on the seventh before paring her final 11 holes of the day. Lennarth is tied for 16th at 1-over-par 217 after 54 holes.
Pancake carded an even-par 72 on Thursday's to move into a tie for 10th place at even-par 216. She bogeyed the first and fourth holes before recording back-to-back birdies on the 10th and 11th hole and finishing with seven straight pars.
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