Back better, putter heating up, Kerr in contention

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NAPLES, Fla. – Cristie Kerr’s back is feeling fine again.

And her putter’s warming up.

Those are dangerous signs for the rest of the field with the Floridian moving into contention Thursday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

Kerr opened the season-ending event with a 4-under-par 68, leaving her tied for third, two shots behind Austin Ernst at Tiburon Golf Club. Kerr, who won the Kia Classic in March for her 17th LPGA title, was out a month this fall after straining a ligament connecting her back and rib cage. She withdrew from the HanaBank Championship in South Korea and didn’t’ return until last week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational.

“It’s feeling great now,” Kerr said.

Kerr, who grew up in Miami, birdied four of the last five holes racing up the leaderboard.

“It was great to feel that magic coming down the last five holes,” Kerr said.

Kerr, one of the best putters of her generation, rolled in a 15-footer for birdie to close out her round.

“I got the speed of the greens, which I’ve struggled on in the past when they’re grainy and kind of slow,” Kerr said. “I was just kind of feeling it.”