ASU women increase lead in PING/ASU Golf Invitational

The Sun Devil women’s golf team widened the gap today at the prestigious PING/ASU Invitational, which includes seven of the top 10 teams in the country.

ASU started the three-day event yesterday in the lead, shooting a 9-under 279, which put them two shots ahead of University of Southern California.  As the sun set on today’s round, the Devils were 11-under and had stretched the lead to six strokes.  UCLA is in third at +1.

The Invitational, played on the par 72 ASU Karsten Golf Course, is the only tournament ASU will host this season.  The Devils, the defending NCAA champions and country’s top-ranked team again this year, have won the tournament 17 times.  The next closest is Tulsa, which has claimed the title five times.

ASU’s sophomore All-American, Carlota Ciganda, carded a 4-under 68 yesterday, including three straight birdies, to help propel the Devils to the lead after the first round.  As play concluded today, she had slipped to fourth, finishing in 73 for a 141 total.  Tulsa’s Kristina Merkle was in first with a 137 total.

But Ciganda’s freshman teammate, Jennifer Johnson, pulled up from third place in the opening round, adding a 70 to yesterday’s 69 to put her just two strokes behind Merkle.  Johnson, who is coming off play in the Kraft Nabisco Championship last week, had four birdies on the back nine yesterday, to give her momentum coming into today’s play.

Julianna Murcia and Jaclyn Sweeney have been practically inseparable since the first tee yesterday.  They both carded a 1-under 71 yesterday to tie for 11th place, and then finished today’s round just one stroke apart.  Murcia finished in 72 and Sweeney in 71 strokes.

But Sweeney finds herself in a five-way tie for 10th place and Murcia shares 15th place with two others that include Margarita Ramos, the highest-placed golfer for the University of Arizona.

Oklahoma State won last year’s tournament, but at 8-over par, they’re in no position to challenge this year.  The Devils enter tomorrow’s final round in good position to add an 18th title.

(Photo: ASU Athletics/Jennifer Jaeckels)