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Kerr claims Kingsmill crown in playoff

The SportsXchange

JAMES CITY, Va. -- Cristie Kerr emits a confident if not boastful aura on the golf course, especially when the ultimate stakes are in play. Entering Sunday's final round with a two-stroke lead, the 35-year-old American had an extra level of motivation while in pursuit of her 16th tour title.

None of her previous LPGA Tour victories, including two on the Kingsmill Resort's River Course, came with her father on site.

Michael Kerr, a retired schoolteacher who traveled with his daughter early in her pro career, was on hand this time as Kerr shot a final-round, 2-under 69, then parred the second hole of a sudden-death playoff to outlast Norway's Suzann Pettersen and claim the Kingsmill Championship on Sunday.

"I wasn't going to lose, not today, not with my dad here," said Kerr after finishing at 12-under 272 for her first victory on tour this season. "He had never seen me win."

Previously the only two-time winner in the event's history, Kerr earned her third victory at Kingsmill, and it nearly came on the first playoff hole. After striking a 5-iron from the rough that sent the ball just passed the hole -- "beautiful, best shot I hit all day" -- Kerr missed a six-foot birdie chance.

While Pettersen's approach shot on the second playoff hole landed off the green, Kerr's landed safely 20 feet from the hole. Her subsequent lag putt settled just outside the cup. After Pettersen missed a par-saving putt for her first bogey of the day, Kerr completed her victory, improving her playoff record to 3-2.

The financial reward came via the $195,000 first prize. The emotional payoff came shortly after the winning putt as Kerr embraced her father, a Vietnam War veteran who has had both knees replaced.

"I think we just kind of cried and were just really happy," Kerr said about the post-round scene. "It's not only my day, but it's his day."

In order for it to become a winning day, Kerr had to overcome blustery winds, chilly temperatures and the match-play-like scenario. Oh, and sink one lengthy par-saving putt after another, including two on the final two holes of regulation. She also needed birdies on 15 and 16 to catch Pettersen at 12 under overall on the par-71 course.

"The way I hit it today, to even have a chance to win -- I made so many putts out there to save par, save any momentum," said Kerr, who hit only 10 greens in regulation through 18 but gave herself scoring chances on both playoff holes. "I started hitting it better late in the round, just in time to catch up a couple of shots."

Pettersen, who won the 2007 Kingsmill event in a playoff, fired a 4-under 67. A winner last month at the Lotte Championship, Pettersen made a playoff bogey on the 18th hole after she parred the par-4, 382-yard hole during all four rounds in regulation and the first playoff hole.

"I probably played my best today out of the four rounds," Pettersen said. "Obviously it's disappointing to lose in the playoff, but there was a lot of good to take from it."

The fifth-ranked player in the world had a lengthy birdie bid on the final hole of regulation roll just past the hole. Kerr then forced the playoff with a tricky up-and-down including, a testy six-foot par putt.

Ariya Jutanugarn, a 17-year-old from Thailand who led after the first and second rounds, matched Sunday's low round with a 66 and tied South Korea's Ilhee Lee for third place, two strokes behind the leaders.

"I played very good today, but not on the front nine," Jutanugarn said. "It's amazing for me to shoot like a 5 under on the back nine."

Americans Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford finished at 9 under. Inbee Park of South Korea, who retains the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings, shot a 67 and finished in seventh place, four shots back.

Kerr, No. 1 in the world for stretches of the 2010 season, ranked 12th entering the week, but she is projected to enter the top-10 when the next rankings are released.

While others threatened to contend, the final battle came down to the duo in the final pairing.

"I was really proud of the way I tried to ... take care of my own game today, especially with Suzann," said Kerr, who won at Kingsmill in 2005 and 2009. "She likes to try and intimidate people out there, but I'm not easily intimidated."

Peterssen, referring to finishing at 12 under par, said, "Thirteen was the number I had in my head, and it seems like that would have (won it). I was one short of where I wanted to be."

NOTES: Already a three-time winner this season, Park pulled within one stroke of first place by birding four of the first seven holes, but she made only one birdie over the final 11 holes despite consistently reaching the green in regulation. ... Lewis, the top-ranked American, started the round two shots behind Kerr. The world's No. 2 player fell back after bogeys on three of the first 12 holes.
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