Kerr posts one-stroke win at State Farm Classic

Tuesday, September 7th 2004, 9:12 am
By: News On 6

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ Cristie Kerr refused to let a tree, some sand and a hot-swinging newcomer keep her from winning her third title in 2004.

Up by one stroke heading into the final hole, Kerr's drive landed behind a small tree and her second shot ended up in a greenside bunker. Christina Kim was just four feet from a birdie that could have tied things up or given Kim her first win.

Instead, Kim missed the short putt, and Kerr calmly got up-and-down for par to win the State Farm Classic Sunday. Kerr, who held a four-stroke lead entering the final round, finished at 3-under-69 for a tournament record total of 24-under 264.

Kim birdied No. 14 and made eagle at the par-5 15th to take the lead. But she fell a stroke back after a bogey at the 16th and missed the 4-footer that would have forced a playoff.

Kerr said she played well but knows the results could have been different.

``This one is definitely unique and a different way to win,'' Kerr said. ``I feel like I had the lead and came from behind to win.''

The 20-year-old Kim, who burst into tears along with her caddie-father shortly afterward, said she was sorely disappointed but knows she will have other opportunities to win on the tour.

``Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to come this far,'' Kim said. ``I'm very proud of myself ... I've got so many years ahead of me and so many rounds of golf ahead of me.''

Kerr, who won the Takefuji Classic in April and ShopRite Classic in June, beat the previous tournament record of 21 under, set in 2001 by Kate Golden. The winning total is the lowest on tour this year, surpassing Karen Stupples' 22 under at the Welch's/Fry's Championship.

Kerr was three strokes off the LPGA's 72-hole mark of 27 under set by Annika Sorenstam in the 2001 Standard Register PING.

Mi Hyun Kim closed with a 5-under 67 and finished third at 18-under 270. Pat Hurst was fourth at 15-under 273 after a 5-under 67. Lorena Ochoa, coming off a win last week, shot a 70 and was among a group at 14-under 274.

Jennifer Rosales, who started the day in third place at 15 under, closed with a disappointing 75 and tied for 11th at 12-under 276.

Players blistered the 6,558-yard, par-72 Rail Golf Course in the first three rounds, but brisk winds kept scores largely in check Sunday.

Kim, looking for her first professional win in her second year on tour, put herself in unusually good position after shooting 16-under the first two rounds, including a tournament record-tying 10-under 62 Thursday. Before this week, her best finish this year was sixth and she was 35th in tour winnings.

Kim took the lead with a birdie-eagle run by the 15th in which she pumped her fist after each putt, drawing huge cheers. But a wayward tee shot and two poor chips led to a bogey at 16.

The stoic Kerr then birdied 17, but got into trouble when her tee shot landed behind a small tree, while Kim had a short birdie putt. But Kim's putt lipped out, and Kerr's bunker shot to within 3 feet led to her tournament-winning par putt.

Kim said the pressure was incredible on the final few holes.

``I don't think in my entire life I've ever felt so many emotions,'' Kim said.

Kerr, who takes home the $180,000 winner's check, said the momentum switch at 16 was crucial, and she won by staying calm despite adversity at 18.

``I dug deep and I found a way to totally go within myself and be at peace,'' Kerr said.

Ochoa's fourth-place finish wrapped up her $100,000 win in the State Farm LPGA Series bonus pool, while Kerr collects $50,000 for finishing second.