Kerr Looks to Gain Ground on Annika


LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- As darkness fell and chilly winds whipped around, some of Cristie Kerr's friends wondered why she was late for dinner. Kerr was still on the golf course, fighting the elements and rookie Seol-An Jeon for seven playoff holes.
Kerr worked a lot of overtime to win last year's Takefuji Classic. Back to defend her title, she certainly would like to repeat, but maybe a little quicker than a year ago.
'People were eating dinner and wondering 'Are they still out there?' I heard that from numerous people,' Kerr recalled. 'I was so tired that night going to dinner that I couldn't appreciate it. You have no idea how much it takes out of you.'
Kerr bogeyed four of the last six holes of regulation to squander a four-shot lead, including missing a short par putt on No. 18. She finally won with a 3-foot par putt after Jeon hit into trouble on the seventh extra hole.
'It was unbelievably draining,' Kerr said. 'Seven holes is long enough without a 40-mile per hour wind and it being really cold.'
That victory, only Kerr's second on the tour, turned out to be a springboard -- she went on to win two more tournaments last year.
'It gave me a lot of confidence, to persevere through such a long process,' she said. 'I showed myself a lot. I can be courageous. I can hit the shots under pressure. I can be there, and I think found a new level in my game that week.'
Kerr is off to a fine start this year, with her $286,959 in earnings second to Annika Sorenstam's $660,000. Sorenstam, who has won five tournaments in a row, is taking the week off.
Although she hasn't won this year, Kerr has been a model of consistency. She has finished in a tie for second, tied twice for third, and her lowest finish was a tie for 18th.
'I'm really happy with my game. I'm improving my swing, my short game, my putting, mental aspect, being able to work it right-to-left and left-to-right and trouble shots,' she said. 'I'm trying to step up my fitness a little bit this year when I'm on the road.'
Kerr's Las Vegas win last year came after she finished the 2003 tournament tied for second with Sorenstam and Soo-Yun Kang behind winner Candie Kung.
Among those who will try to deny Kerr consecutive victories at The Las Vegas Country Club is Natalie Gulbis, who has a bit of a home advantage.
'I live about 30 minutes from the golf course,' she said. 'It is always nice to sleep in your own bed and it is nice that when I get off the golf course I can go over and see my instructor Butch Harmon who is in town.'
Jeon, who said after last year's tournament that going head-to-head with Kerr was a great education, is back to try to show how much she learned.
The winner will earn $165,000 of the $1.1 million purse. The par-72 course will play to 6,550 yards.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - LPGA Takefuji Classic