Cristie Kerr, winner of the 2015 CME Group Tour Championship, shot a 4-under-par 68 in the first round on Thursday.
That part isn’t a surprise.
Considering she’s still recovering from three dislocated ribs she suffered in a golf cart accident two weeks ago, though, it’s quite something.
“I actually feel a little bit better today, but I just thought it was really important to get through last week,” said Kerr, who played in the frigid conditions in the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open on Monday in Houston. “There were points where I didn’t think that I was going to be able to, but I guess when they say there is a will there is a way.”
Kerr decided not to will her way through the entire pro-am Wednesday, stopping with five holes to play. She said the pain level for her was improved Thursday.
“It was like a two to three today, so it was a little bit better,” Kerr said. “Honestly, Sunday last week when we played the one hole it was like nine. I got very lucky to not play that day and to go get treatment and come back out the next day and finish the round, to be able to finish.
“It was pretty bad. Of there were points last week where I didn’t think I was going to be able to finish. Since coming here and getting therapy and doing more cryotherapy, I definitely felt — in the pro-am as the day went on it got a little bit worse and I saved myself a few holes there, but today of the best I’ve felt in two weeks.”
Playing partner and rookie Andrea Lee was impressed with Kerr’s play Thursday. That included some up-and-downs for par, including chipping in for par on one hole.
“We just call her the Short Game Queen because she gets up and down from everywhere,” Lee said.
Back on course after positive COVID test
Andrea Lee had to miss the U.S. Women’s Open last week after testing positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 8, and withdrawing.
“It was definitely the worst week to get it,” Lee said Thursday. “I was really looking forward to playing Champions (in Houston). I’ve played there before a long time ago and was really looking forward to it. it happens. There’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve just got to hope that your health is good, and that you’re ready to go for the next one.”
Lee could not be cleared to play either day of the pro-am at the CME Group Tour Championship, and flew in Wednesday night, then played the first round Thursday. She shot a 1-under 71.
“I’m pretty satisfied with that honestly because I haven’t hit a ball in like 10 or 11 days,” said Lee, who had said she had mild symptoms. “I’ve just been stuck in my room trying to putt. I kind of went out there and trusted my caddie (Andrew Dearden) because he’s seen the course many times, so that was helpful.
“… I’m honestly glad that I’m just even here playing, even though I didn’t have any prep.”
In the field with just enough notice
Knowing she would have to go through the coronavirus testing protocol turned out to be a good thing for Robynn Ree. She saw she was first alternate, so decided to make the trip to Naples, because if she’d have to be tested and cleared in case she got in the field. So Ree flew in on the red eye, got tested, and went to play a practice round.
Wednesday afternoon she found out that Mi Hyang Lee had withdrawn, putting her into the tournament.
“I’m just really grateful to be play one more tournament before the season’s over,” said Ree, who shot a 2-over 74.
Masson with the eagle
Caroline Masson was playing steadily, sitting at 1 under through 12 holes. But the 13th ended up being lucky for her. She hit a 9-iron on the short par-4, and it went in for an eagle.
BOOM! 💥 @CaroMasson with the hole out for eagle. 👏
— LPGA (@LPGA) December 17, 2020
“It was pretty cool,” she said. “I had a pretty good number for a 9-iron, a little downwind, and kind of hit the shot I wanted and it pitched on top and just released a little bit. I kind of wasn’t really looking anymore because I thought it was good, but I didn’t realize it would go in.
“There were a couple people up by the green, which was nice. Started cheering and, yeah, definitely obviously a great bonus. It was a good shot, so nice to see something like that go in. You can never expect it.”
Masson also holed out during the pro-am Tuesday.
“So I’m hoping that they come in three this week,” she said.
Henderson bounces back
Brooke Henderson, who has a condo at Miromar Lakes, had an inauspicious start at home. She made a triple bogey on No. 2, but Henderson was able to come back enough to get to 1 over.
After the double, Henderson played the next 14 holes at 2 under, and bogeyed No. 17, but came back with a birdie on No. 18.
Kang birdies for St. Jude
Danielle Kang was moved during her media session Wednesday by an interaction with childhood cancer survivor Mary Browder, 17, who was at this tournament a year ago and beat Hodgkins lymphoma.
Kang pledged to donate $1,000 per birdie this week in Browder’s honor. She made four in Thursday’s first round.
CME Chairman and CEO Terry Duffy said a flat $500,000 donation for its season-long hole-in-one program will be made to St. Jude this year due to the abbreviated LPGA Tour schedule.
Terry Gannon is back for his second straight week at Tiburón. He did play-by-play for the PGA Tour’s QBE Shootout that ended Sunday, and he’ll do play-by-play for the CME Group Tour Championship through Sunday. Judy Rankin will be the analyst, with Tom Abbott in the tower, and Jerry Foltz and Karen Stupples as on-course analysts, and Damon Hack doing interviews. Foltz also was here for QBE coverage.
Golf Channel will have coverage Friday and Saturday from 1-4 p.m. ET, with NBC having the final round from noon-3 p.m. ET.