The Loop

Lots on the line during final day at Caves Valley

__OWINGS MILLS, Md.--__Roughly eight hours away from the end of the final round of he NCAA Women's Championship and not only are the team and individual titles still up for grabs, but so is the national player-of-the-year award.

My top two candidates in recent weeks are coming through at Caves Valley, sitting near the top of the leader board and primed for a strong finish today at Caves Valley. Specifically, Purdue's Maria Hernandez is tied for second with 18 holes to play, two back of leader USC's Jennifer Song, while fellow Trojan Lizette Salas is T-15, seven shots off the pace. (Click here to link to a feature on Hernandez that ran in last week's Golf World.)

That said, should Song hold on to the title, she had the credentials to claim POY herself (not to mention wrap up the top freshman honor). As I mentioned in last night's recap of round three, Song has finished in the top-five in six of 10 starts and garnered a 71.41 stroke average. Her closest brush with victory was a month ago at the Pac-10 Championship, where she lost in a playoff to Arizona State's Carlota Ciganda.

UCLA's Maria Jose Uribe, tied for second, also could bolster her candidacy, after winning the Central Regional earlier this month. Uribe also came in fifth at the Pac-10 Championship and has eight top-20 finishes this season.

Of the seven players tied for fifth or better heading into today's final round, three actually played in the morning wave Thursday and saw their scores hold up as the wind started blowing a little more during the afternoon.

UC Davis's Alice Kim shot a third-round 70 that put her at the time in a tie for 10th. By day's end, though, her three-over 219 put her in fourth place alone, three strokes back of the leader.