Swing abandons Kerr in last round of Open

Posted: July 13, 2009

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Cristie Kerr said that instead of nerves, it was more a matter of her swing being "a little off here, a little off there" that saw her squander a 3-stroke lead and a chance to win her second U.S. Women's Open in the last three years.

Kerr, the leader after the second and third rounds, closed with a 4-over-par 75 yesterday at Saucon Valley Country Club and tied for third, 2 strokes behind the winner, Eun-Hee Ji.

"I didn't go out and do all the things as well as I did the last three days," a composed Kerr said afterward. "But it wasn't for lack of trying. I had a good warm-up. Maybe I was just a little tighter out there today. Maybe it was a little bit of the pressure. Who knows?

"But I couldn't even hit the fairway with a 7-iron (off the 15th tee). So obviously it was not as rosy a feeling with the swing as I had the last three days. But it's still not an excuse. I kind of gave it away."

When Kerr, 31, of Miami, birdied the par-4 third, it gave her a 3-stroke lead. But it was to be her only birdie of the day.

When she missed a four-foot putt and bogeyed the 13th, she had lost the lead for the first time since Friday, and it marked the initial time all week she was over par for the Open.

"Nothing went in," she said. "Even the good putts I hit didn't go in. That's kind of tough. You need that good feeling and good momentum on the greens at an Open."

The killer, however, came at the par-4 16th, when she turned a good birdie chance into a three-putt bogey. She rammed her first putt of 12 feet some 6 feet past the hole and missed the comebacker to drop out of the lead for good.

"I hit so hard it was ridiculous," she said. "It was almost a hacker putt, I hit it so bad."

The frustration of No. 16 prompted a momentary loss of composure on the 17th tee, where TV cameras caught her kicking her bag twice.

"I was a little frustrated," she said. "That's OK. It's my bag. It's not like I kicked somebody in the crowd."

Kerr didn't have a good look at birdie on either of her last two holes, although her 30-footer at the 18th did appear as if it had a decent chance to go in. But it didn't, and a golden opportunity for a second Open title had passed her by.

"It was disappointing but really, I tried my heart out," she said. "I left everything out there. I just wasn't the better person today."

Chip shots. Jean Reynolds, the Futures Tour player who contended in the first three rounds, fell back with a final-round 77 and a 292 total. "I'm not real happy with the way I played today," she said. "But I hung in there all week. I'm pleased with the whole week. It was just incredible." . . . Jennifer Song, 19, winner of last month's U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links championship, fired a 72 to grab low-amateur honors at 291. The soon-to-be sophomore at Southern Cal was 2 strokes ahead of Jessica Korda and Alison Lee, and 3 up on 14-year-old Alexis Thompson, who played in the same pairing as 49-year-old Juli Inkster, a two-time Open champion.

Lorena Ochoa, the world's top-ranked player, tied for second among all players in the field with 13 birdies for the week but finished in a 26th-place tie after a closing 72 for a 293 total. . . . For the week, Saucon Valley's Old Course played to a stroke average of 75.543. The par-4 third hole was the toughest, averaging 4.496, while the par-5 opening hole was the easiest with a 4.993 mark.

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.

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