Following an opening round 68 at the Michelob Ultra Open Thursday, Cristie Kerr made an out-of-the-ordinary comment to caddy Worth Blackwelder. Well aware of her 2005 form and Kingsmill track record, Kerr provided a prediction."She told me, 'We can't be cocky, but this is our week,' " Blackwelder recalled. "She doesn't say that often, but she was feeling it this week."
Was she ever.
Against the top field in women's golf, which included Annika Sorenstam and her quest for a record-setting sixth consecutive victory, Kerr was by far the best and most steady, shooting 68-72 on Sunday to finish at 8-under 276, five shots ahead of Jill McGill.
"It definitely feels like a major championship," said Kerr, 27. "To know you can play this well and beat the best players and perhaps be one of the best players in the world is a great feeling."
And about breaking Sorenstam's streak?
"It makes it sweeter," Kerr admitted.
Michele Redman, Catriona Matthew and Natalie Gulbis tied for third at 2-under. Only seven players finished under par, compared to 11 in 2003 and 19 last year.
Sorenstam shot 69-74 to finish tied for 12th and completed a tournament over par (plus 2) for the first time in 25 events. Her five-tournament win streak remains tied with Nancy Lopez for the most all-time.
"It's a difficult thing to do," Sorenstam said. "I did win five times in a row and I did win the (Kraft) Nabisco, which is what I wanted to do."
Kerr shot a 3-under 68 in the morning to extend her advantage to five shots heading into the afternoon's final round. During the afternoon 18, her lead was no fewer than four strokes.
Kerr won for the fifth time on the LPGA Tour and the $330,000 paycheck was the largest of her career. It was also the first time Sorenstam had been in a tournament won by Kerr so that facet, plus the difficulty of the River Course, plus the 36-hole Sunday, made this her best win.
Coming to Kingsmill, Kerr had three top-three finishes this year and an axe to grind with the River Course.
"Cristie came in here focused and really wanted this tournament," Blackwelder said.
The want-to came from her first two Michelobs. Two years ago, she led with four holes to play but her bogey on No. 15 left the door open for Grace Park's one-shot victory. Last year, she was the co-leader entering the final round and shot 75 to finish tied for sixth.
"I feel it owed me one for the finish two years ago," Kerr said.
There were no such hiccups this time. The key was the third round, which for Kerr started at 8:57 a.m. Entering with a two-shot lead over Redman and A.J. Eathorne, Kerr birdied Nos. 13 and 15 and her round was one of only four in the 60s.
In the afternoon, Kerr had two bogeys and one birdie on the front nine, and after a bogey on the 10th, played conservative yet effective golf until an errant tee shot on the final hole.
By that time, victory was secure and Gulbis was spraying a bottle of beer on her close friend.
"She's been hitting the ball really well so she was due," said Gulbis, whose third round 67 was the best in the field. "She hasn't won a major, but this is huge for her."
Gulbis and the rest of the field could never string enough birdies together to make Kerr nervous.
"You never expect any player to falter," McGill said. "I was just trying to do the best that I could and if you do make some birdies and bring it on, maybe they'll start thinking twice about it."
Kerr said she was scoreboard watching, a habit she picked up from Sorenstam. What she didn't see was Sorenstam.
Sorenstam shot 69 in the morning, but remained eight shots out of the lead. Her hopes for history ended when she took six shots to reach the green on No. 7 and double bogeyed.
"Just a lot of bad shots," she said of the seventh.
Sorenstam's troubles on the greens also continued. She needed 32 fourth-round putts and had only two birdies over her final 21 holes.
"I couldn't read the greens and (caddie) Terry (McNamara) also had a difficult time," she said. "Put that together and you're not going to make a lot of putts."
And unlike last year on the second hole when Kerr double bogeyed, there were no major meltdowns.
"When she gave a shot back, she kept plugging along," Eathorne said. "She has that fire and it doesn't matter what the shot is, she has complete concentration."
Around 8 p.m., after two rounds and over 10 hours of golf, Kerr was near complete exhaustion.
"I feel," she said, "like I've reached a new level in my game."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times