Sunday, May 5, 2013

Kingsmill Championship Sunday: Kerr Prevails in Playoff over Pettersen in Potential Solheim Cup Preview

Suzann Pettersen fired a bogey-free 67 today to catch Cristie Kerr in regulation at the Kingsmill Championship, but the American star beat the European star by parring the 18th hole twice in a row in the playoff.  (In fact, Kerr had needed to birdie the 15th and 16th to catch Pettersen, who had made 3 birdies in her 1st 6 holes on the back to briefly take the lead.  When both players parred 17 and 18, the match went into overtime.  See the LPGA's twitter feed for the play-by-play.)

17-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn, who led after 18 and 36 holes, caught fire on the back 9, shooting a bogey-free 30 to tie Ilhee Lee for 3rd at -10.  Gerina Piller matched Jutanugarn's 66 for the low round of the day and get to -4 for the week, which was good enough for her 3rd top 10 on the season.  Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford notched top 5s of their own by finishing 1 shot behind Jutanugarn and Lee, while world #1 Inbee Park would have joined them had she avoided a walkoff bogey that left her with a 67.  Rounding out the top 10 were So Yeon Ryu (68, -5), Anna Nordqvist (68, -4), and Sandra Gal (70, -4).  The only other really good round of the day came from Hee Kyung Seo, whose bogey-free 67 snuck her into the top 20.  Defending champion Ji-Yai Shin got a moral victory with a 69 to close out her week, while Paula Creamer, who lost to her in a playoff last year, did her one better today with a 4-birdie 68 that got her into T12 with Na Yeon Choi, Amy Yang, Caroline Hedwall, and Katie Burnett.

It wasn't such a great day for many other players.  Moriya Jutanugarn shot a 74 to drop to +3 for the week, but Chie Arimura ended up 2 shots behind her (as did Ai Miyazato, who went an uncharacteristic 76-75 on the weekend), so Jutanugarn's lead in the Rookie of the Year race was endangered this week.  Lizette Salas's 74 was the worst score of anyone who finished in the top 20, but Mo Martin and Jenny Shin dropped out of the top 20 with the same score and Dewi Claire Schreefel, who opened the week with a 67, ended it 10 shots worse (and that wasn't even her worst score of the week).

Kerr has now won 3 times at Kingsmill and 16 times in her LPGA career.  For the sake of the American side in the Solheim Cup, let's hope this is the start of a hot streak for Kerr, because Stacy Lewis can't win the event by herself and Salas, Creamer, Korda, and Stanford are playing solid and sometimes very good golf, but haven't been able to close the deal just yet this season.  Meanwhile, Pettersen is clearly Team Euro's leader, but Swedes Nordqvist and Hedwall are both starting to play some solid golf, and the Spanish Armada of Munoz, Recari, and Ciganda is going to be tough to beat, while Karine Icher, Guilia Sergas, and Sandra Gal will likely be pretty tough, as well.  It's a long time before the teams are finalized, but right now the advantage is definitely with the Euros.  For now, though, let's celebrate Cristie Kerr's great win.  Oh, and we should take note that she did it by putting at a world-class level--Kerr needed only 105 putts over 72 holes this week, 3 fewer than Inbee Park, who's been a magician on the greens this season.  Way to go, Cristie!

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