Kerr closes in on Yang, POY honors, at LPGA Tour Championship

cristie kerr
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Cristie Kerr shot a 1-under 71 for the third straight round Saturday, and is is the only player to shoot under par in all three rounds.
By
Antonio Gonzalez
Associated Press

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Published: Saturday, December 04, 2010 | 6:25 p.m.

Cristie Kerr was a high school teenager the last time an American woman accomplished what she has a chance to do Sunday.

Kerr is making a move to become the first American in 16 years to win LPGA Tour player of the year, trailing leader Amy Yang by three strokes entering the final round of the LPGA Tour Championship.

"Everybody can imagine how much it would mean to me and for American golf," Kerr said.

Kerr shot a 1-under 71 for the third straight round Saturday to put her in a tight pack at Grand Cypress Golf Club where anybody under par is in contention. She was the only one to shoot below par in all three rounds.

Kerr, 33, needs nothing short of victory to unseat points leader Yani Tseng. All that might take is another solid round of golf to become the first American since Beth Daniel in 1994 to claim the LPGA's most prestigious annual award.

"We also do need an American to win awards like player of the year and really start to bring the LPGA Tour back to the United States," Kerr said.

There's not many in her way.

Yang (73) has led all three rounds, Maria Hjorth (71) was one shot back of Yang and Seon Hwa Lee (73) was also tied with Kerr. Only five players were under par for the tournament.

"If you are under par, I still think there's a chance," Hjorth said.

This year's season finale isn't following the usual script.

For the first time in a decade, the player of the year award will be someone other than Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam now that both are retired. And since Ochoa bid farewell to the tour in May, the No. 1 ranking has shuffled nine times among three players -- Jiyai Shin, Ai Miyazato and Kerr.

Five in the field had a chance to grab the honors -- plus the Vare Trophy for the year's lowest scoring average -- when the tournament began, and now Kerr is in prime position to take them all. Anything under par might be good enough again for the 2007 U.S. Women's Open champion.

But only a victory would give Kerr enough to take player of the year honors from Tseng, who made the 54-hole cut on the number after shooting a 2-over 74 in the third round. Tseng is at 6 over for the tournament and doesn't sound too confident of earning the award.

"I think Cristie is gonna be winning the tournament to take this title," Tseng said.

That's because the American has been by far the most consistent in the field. She had three birdies but only two bogeys Saturday on a course where cold conditions and have made firm and fluctuating greens even faster.

Although after near-freezing temperatures the first two days, a picturesque day in the mid-60s made conditions ripe for low scores.

But it didn't happen.

Kerr saved par all day with big putts, including one from about 12 feet on the 17th hole to stay on the heels of the leaders. The tournament also had an additional cut after 54 holes to 34 players -- the lowest 30 scores and ties -- that gives Kerr and others near the top of the leaderboard an even better chance of holding off any major final-day pushes.

It also puts Kerr only 18 holes away from a monumental victory for American golf.

"I have to put the awards and all of those different things away and I just have to win (Sunday)," she said. "I have to win the day."