Kerr Still Americas Best Hope to Top Annika


2005 U.S. WomenCHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. -- She is the best player in America, but hardly the favorite to win the U.S. Open. She gets a little better every year, but isnt quite sure what to do with her newfound success.
Still, when it comes to listing candidates who might possibly derail Annika Sorenstams quest for the grand slam, Cristie Kerr has to be considered right up there.
Kerr, the top American player, ranks second on the money list to Sorenstam, second in scoring average, and second'a very distant second'in wins this year with one to Sorenstams six.
To get to No. 1, it would take something huge'a start would be winning the U.S. Open'although Kerr is still figuring out what investment she wants to make to get there.
She was ranked 28th on the money list in 2001, crept into the teens the next two years and moved to No. 5 in 2004. After a victory last month at Kingsmill, she got close to the top spot'close to Sorenstam, that is'and decided to enter more events in hopes of catching her.
Since then, Sorenstam has won three times, including her second major. Kerr has finished third, 18th, 11th and 33rd. Last week in Rochester, she withdrew with a neck injury she said has improved enough for this weeks tournament.
I realized to beat her out to be No. 1 in the world is going to take quite a lot, Kerr said. I have to do better. I think just focusing on what I have to do and just enjoying playing professional golf and not putting so much pressure on myself ... I dont play well like that.
Kerr insists she is not intimidated by Sorenstam, whose power and accuracy tend to demoralize opponents and put tournaments out of reach early.
It just basically challenges me to take my game to the next level, and shes made me better over the years by playing with her, Kerr said.
To top Sorenstam at this event Kerr will need to get much better and quickly. Two weeks ago at the LPGA Championship, Sorenstam got ahead by five strokes on Saturday and coasted in the final round.
The demands of a U.S. Open course only seem to heighten Sorenstams advantage. Fairways at Cherry Hills are narrow. The rough has grown to almost 4 inches, so high that several players during their practice rounds Tuesday were simply hacking out sideways instead of trying to advance the ball.
Cherry Hills also has one of the smallest sets of greens in big-time golf. Anyone watching Sorenstam on the tiny second green Tuesday as she consecutively knocked in putts of 5, 10 and 15 feet would have gotten a very good idea of what theyre up against.
I think Annika is the best story in golf right now, said Denver native Jill McGill. Her game is unbelievable. She hasnt missed any shots, and you will notice in the last 10 months or so, shes starting to make a lot of putts.
While Sorenstam has handled the increased pressure and added commitments that come to the top player in the world, Kerr admittedly is struggling with the increased attention.
Its definitely an adjustment period, she said.
For instance, Kerr said she was thrown off by an interview request as she was preparing for a playoff hole at the season-ending ADT Championship last year. Kerr teed off short and hit her second shot into the water on the way to second place. Her opponent in the playoff: Annika Sorenstam.
Ive played with her enough to be comfortable playing with her and to know, ultimately, you can only control your own game, Kerr said.
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