American Woman


LPGA ChampionshipPITTSFORD, N.Y. – Cristie Kerr slung a lightning bolt into the 18th green in her brilliant finish Friday at the LPGA Championship.

The roar that echoed across Locust Hill Country Club sounded like thunder after she nearly holed a 6-iron.

The gallery squeezed around the finishing hole stood to salute her with another rousing ovation when she marched onto the green to mark her ball 8 inches from the cup.

Kerr says the crowds rooted her along so boisterously in her run of four birdies over the final five holes that she’s certain they were rooting for something larger than any one player.
Cristie Kerr
Cristie Kerr and caddie line up a shot during Round 2. (Getty Images)
“I can feel they want an American winner, just in the way they are cheering me on,” Kerr said.

Americans were 0 for 7 in LPGA events this season before Kerr broke through to win the LPGA State Farm Classic two weeks ago. Before Kerr’s victory, Michelle Wie was the lone American to win an LPGA event in more than a year.

Americans haven't made much of a mark lately in major championships, either. They’ve won just one in the last 10. Brittany Lincicome’s Kraft Nabisco title last year is the only major claimed by an American since Kerr won her only major at the U.S. Women’s Open in the summer of 2007.

While some American players have grown annoyed by constant reminders of their struggles, Kerr’s turned it to motivation.

“We have to keep doing what we’re doing with the LPGA Girls’ Golf program,” said Kerr, 32. “I know I keep hammering that home. We need to get more girls playing golf in the United States and hopefully have them watch these kinds of tournaments, seeing Americans win.

“That’s how I got involved in golf, and that’s why I’m sitting here. I watched Juli Inkster and Nancy Lopez and Pat Bradley and Patty Sheehan winning tournaments.”

Kerr is the highest ranked American at No. 5 in the world and makes no secret of her desire to gain the No. 1 ranking and become the first American since Beth Daniel in 1994 to be the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year.

A 13-time LPGA winner, Kerr is trying to figure out how to turn more of her victories into majors. With a 6-under-par 66 Friday, she seems to be figuring out just how to do that. She posted the first bogey-free round of the championship.

Tied for the lead at day’s start, Kerr pulled away hard and fast on the back nine. She was five shots ahead when she signed her scorecard.

Terrific iron play, determined scrambling and a hot putter helped Kerr overcome hitting just five fairways.

At the 14th hole, Kerr made birdie hitting a 6-iron to 9 feet.

At the 15th, she made another, carving a 9-iron to 10 feet.

At the 16th, she made a terrific par from a bad spot after missing the fairway left. She flighted a low 7-iron from under a tree and out of the rough, hitting the green to set up an impressive par.

At the 17th, Kerr hit sand wedge to 23 feet and coaxed in another birdie with her magic wand, also known as her Odyssey Marksman White Hot putter.

Before tapping in that final birdie at 18, she raised the putter to all those howling fans.

“When she gets her putter rolling, she’s hard to beat,” said Jason Gilroyed, Kerr’s caddie.

Kerr found this putter model the week before she won the LPGA State Farm Classic. She found it in the pro shop at Liberty National, the club she practices at when she’s at her New York home. The manufacturer delivered a model to her specifications.

'When I find a putter that feels right, I can make almost anything I look at,” Kerr said.

Gilroyed knows what’s possible when Kerr’s putter grows hot. She's one of the best putters on tour. Gilroyed was on her bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles in ’07. Kerr fired him that year, but they teamed again to start this season.

Gilroyed says there’s no secret to what makes Kerr such a good putter.

“I think it’s heart,” he said. “You have to have a good stomach to make putts. You can’t be scared to make putts.”

There’s no fear in Kerr halfway through the LPGA Championship. There’s just a burning desire to grab hold of her second major championship title.