Women of Troy closing on a victory in Pac-12 championships

The No. 1-ranked USC women’s golf team will take a commanding 11-stroke lead into Wednesday’s final round at the Pac-12 championships, erasing any doubts that might have surfaced after a disappointing fifth-place finish at last week’s PING/ASU Invitational.

The Women of Troy came out on fire in Monday’s opening round, placing five players in the top 10 and immediately distancing themselves from the competition. Junior Sophia Popov led the squad with a first round 6-under 66, a career best. Her round included an eagle on Valencia Country Club’s par-5 ninth hole. Freshman Annie Park shot an impressive 2-under 70 on the day while sophomore Doris Chen and junior Rachel Morris tied at even par.

Popov slowed down during Tuesday’s second round, but her combined two-day 3-under is just one stroke behind the leaders. The junior is looking for a USC-record sixth career individual win. Park’s second consecutive round of 70 tied her with Stanford’s Mariah Stackhouse for the two-round lead at 4-under. Chen’s 1-under 71 on Tuesday moved her to just three strokes back of the lead, putting her within striking distance for an individual title as well.

Barring an epic collapse, the team title appears to be solidly in USC’s hands. No. 8 UCLA currently holds a one-stroke advantage over No. 14 Washington for second place, while No. 6 Arizona and Arizona State round out the top five.

The individual race, on the other hand, is more compelling. Park, Stackhouse, Popov, Chen and Colorado’s Jennifer Coleman all have a solid chance at victory. Only three strokes separate the tournament’s top-eight players, setting up an exciting final round.

If Park can hold on for the win, she would become the third consecutive USC freshman to win the event, following in the footsteps of Popov in 2011 and Chen in 2012. The final round can be followed on GolfStat.com.