Kerr in control in LPGA Championship
PITTSFORD, N.Y. – As confident as Cristie Kerr is playing, the top-ranked American was left surprised with how she ran away from the pack in the second round of the LPGA Championship on Friday.
“I played awesome today,” Kerr exclaimed. “I don’t think anybody expected anybody to be in double digits after two days. But you know what, keep my head down and keep going.”
The 14-year tour veteran, and 13-time winner, is two rounds from claiming her second major title after shooting a 6-under 66 to take a five-stroke lead at 10 under on the Locust Hill Country Club course. The 2007 U.S. Women’s Open Champion opened the day in a three-way tie for the lead before taking control by scrambling out of trouble several times to produce a bogey-free round.
She birdied four of her last five holes to pull away with the low score of the round.
Inbee Park, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open champion, and Mika Miyazato were tied for second at 5 under after 70s. Brittany Lincicome (69) and Amy Yang (67) were 4 under in a field that has only 17 players at below par in the tour’s second major.
Park was impressed by Kerr’s score, but wasn’t prepared to concede anything just yet.
“No, not at all. It’s still two days of golf left out there,” Park said. “Anything could happen on this golf course.”
Much did happen to Kerr, and she managed to overcome it.
Despite hitting only five of 14 fairways, Kerr muscled through the heavy rough that protects the narrow 6,506-yard course. That included a perfectly placed 135-yard shot she punched through a small opening between a pair of trees to bounce it on the green to save par on No. 16. She holed a 23-footer for birdie on No. 17, then tapped on 18 for her final birdie in after hitting a 6-iron within a foot.
“Weightlifting,” Kerr cracked, referring to playing out of the rough. “I ended up getting some pretty good lies, some not so good lies, but I managed. When you are in the rough, don’t try to be a hero.”
She also credited the new putter she began using the before winning the State Farm Classic two weeks ago.
“I’ve been searching for a a while,” Kerr said. “I’ve always been a good putter, but when I found a putter that feels right, I can make almost anything I look at. So I found it.”
In two rounds, Kerr has made just one bogey while being particularly sharp on the back nine, which she has played a combined 8-under 66.
The cut was at 4-over 148, knocking out several notables, including Se Ri Pak (10 over) and Pat Hurst (11 over).
Sun and a light breeze made for good conditions a day after a heavy downpour briefly delayed play. With thunderstorms in the forecast for mid-Saturday, officials have taken efforts to ensure the third round will be completed.
Start times have been pushed up 90 minutes to 7 a.m. And the groups will go off in threesomes rather than twosomes, while also going off both the No. 1 and 9 tees in a bid to complete the round by 2:30 p.m.
Kerr is scheduled to tee off in the last group with Park and Miyazato at 9 a.m.
Opening the week ranked fifth in the world, Kerr is proving serious about her objective in taking a run at top spot, which is currently held by Ai Miyazato – 3 over after rounds of 76 and 71.
“I feel like I’m poised to do it,” she said. “I’ve won a lot of regular tournaments. It’s really time.”
Jiyai Shin, the No. 2 player in the world, was 2 under after rounds of 72 and 70 in her first tournament since having an emergency appendectomy two weeks ago.
Kerr also is eager to show that the U.S. contingent on the LPGA Tour can be competitive in the post-Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam era.
“I think it’s very important,” she said, noting the cheers she’s getting from the large galleries at Locust Hill. “I can feel they want an American winner just in the way they’re cheering for me.”
Lincicome, from Florida, agreed with Kerr, but with one exception.
“It is important for Americans to win majors,” Lincicome said. “Hopefully, Cristie Kerr is not running away with it, so I can have a chance.”
Lincicome got as low as 5 under for the tournament before a bogey 5 on No. 16. She then salvaged her round by sinking a 10-foot par putt on No. 18.
Park produced four birdies and two bogeys to move into second. That’s an improvement a day after shooting a 69 despite carding four bogeys.
“Only two bogeys, I think I can take that every day,” Inbee said.
Mika Miyazato, who started on 10, was even for the round before scoring birdies on the par-3 fifth and par-5 eighth.
“Today was all about keeping my patience and keeping my game steady,” Miyazato said.
Juli Inkster (74) dropped to 1 over for the tournament, a day after shooting a 71 on her 50th birthday. Michelle Wie was 2 over, following an opening 72 with a 74.
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