Kerr Outduels Sorenstam for Oklahoma Win

Monday, September 11th 2006, 6:10 am
By: News On 6

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (AP) _ Staring down the best female golfer in the world didn't seem to bother Cristie Kerr on Sunday. Annika Sorenstam held a 2-shot lead over Kerr with eight holes to play in the John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic and seemed poised to post her 70th career LPGA Tour win. However, Kerr suddenly found her putting stroke and used four back-nine birdies to rally for a 2-shot win at Cedar Ridge Country Club.

Kerr's 3-under-par 68 gave her a three-round total of 14-under 199, the lowest score since the tournament moved to the suburban Tulsa course in 2004. It was her ninth career tour win and her third this year.

She also broke Sorenstam's chokehold on the event. Sorenstam won the tournament in 2004 and '05, and also in '02 when it was held at Tulsa Country Club.

For years, it seemed when Sorenstam played well _ and she did Sunday, finishing with a 2-under 69 _ other golfers wilted in a tournament's final holes, allowing her to dominate the LPGA Tour as Tiger Woods has the PGA Tour.

But the 28-year-old Kerr said her rally Sunday is evidence that the field is catching up a bit to Sorenstam.

``We're all becoming a lot more competitive with her because we're getting better,'' Kerr said. ``I think people are starting to realize, hey, you know what, we don't have to play under pressure, we don't have to give it away and give it to her just because she is the best player in the world.

``Let her stand up for herself and play great golf and see what kind of match you can make out of it.''

Sorenstam had tied the course record with an opening-round 64, but Kerr moved into contention Saturday with a 10-under 61, the lowest round on tour this year, and took a one-shot lead into the final round.

Sorenstam hit a 9-foot birdie putt on the first hole Sunday to pull even, and she and Kerr traded pars until the eighth hole, when Kerr bogeyed.

``I knew that I was going to have to put some pressure on her and make some birdies to be able to get back even with her,'' Kerr said.

Sorenstam went up two shots with a 6-foot birdie putt on No. 10, but Kerr recorded consecutive birdies on the next two holes to pull even. On the par-4 No. 12, Kerr's tee shot landed in a fairway bunker but she put her second shot within 24 feet of the pin.

Kerr's 38-foot birdie putt into the center of the hole on the par-3 15th gave her the lead and she sealed her victory with an 18-footer for birdie on one of the 6,602-yard course's toughest holes _ the par-4, 422-yard 17th.

Sorenstam simply couldn't match Kerr's putting.

``I actually thought I putted well,'' Sorenstam said. ``They were rolling well but didn't go in, and there's not much you can do about those times. That's just the way it is. The first day I hit them good and they went in. The last two days I felt like I putted well, about the same, but just haven't made anything.

``It's just one of those days where you felt really good but couldn't get anything going.''

Kerr also gained a measure of revenge with the win. A week earlier, in the final round of the State Farm Classic in Springfield, Ill., Sorenstam shot a 62 _ tying the LPGA record for the lowest final-round score by a tournament winner _ to beat runner-up Kerr by two shots.

Kerr's previous wins this year were in the Franklin American Mortgage Championship in Franklin, Tenn., and the Canadian Women's Open in London, Ontario.

Lorena Ochoa, who entered the tournament as the tour's top money winner, started the day at 4 under, birdied five of the first 10 holes and pulled within two shots of the lead with a birdie at No. 14, but came no closer. She finished third at 10-under 203 after her 6-under 65.

Diana D'Alessio (66) finished fourth at 9 under after being third last year.

Sorenstam, Ochoa and Karrie Webb also have won three tour events this year. Sorenstam's second-place finish vaulted her ahead of Webb in the tour points standings, which Ochoa leads. Kerr remained in fourth in the points standings.