Kerr Will Play Sunday Looking for More Championship Magic July 15, 2017 | BEDMINSTER, N.J. By Lisa D. Mickey

Cristie Kerr is 10 years removed from her U.S. Women's Open victory, but her game still stacks up with the world's best. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Women's Open

There’s nothing more that Cristie Kerr would like to do than celebrate 10 years since her 2007 U.S. Women’s Open victory with another title.

By her own admission, this is her favorite event.

She is 39 years old and 21 years into her professional career, so if she’s going to add her name to the Harton S. Semple trophy for a second time, there is no better time than now.

“I’ve played so well this year, it’s easy to put pressure on myself because of the expectations, but I feel like I’m going to go out there and let everybody else put the pressure on themselves tomorrow,” said Kerr after Saturday’s third round, in which she carded a 2-under-par 70 to head into the final round at 4-under 212, five strokes behind 54-hole leader Shanshan Feng.

“I’m going to go out there [on Sunday] and execute my shots and make my putts,” she added. “If I can do that, then you never know.”

Kerr has long been a straight hitter not blessed with abundant length, but she’s always been dangerous with a putter in her hands and deft with her wedges.

Through three rounds at Trump National Golf Club, she leads the field with a putting average of 26.33 putts per round.

Kerr has also hit 83 percent of her fairways,– a game changer during a week when rough hydrated by nearly two days of rain can severely punish a wayward tee shot.

But Kerr entered the Women’s Open not only as a champion, but also having recorded recorded eight top-10 finishes in 21 championship starts.

She tied for second in 2000, tied for third in 2009, finished solo third in 2011, and last year, finished tied for eighth at CordeValle.

“It’s the hardest test in women’s golf consistently, year after year, and it means the world,” she said. “It’s our national championship as an American.”

While Kerr has battled back spasms during play this week, she has gutted it out, admitting that during Friday’s rainy second round, she wondered on the third hole if she could continue playing. Fortunately for her, the back issues stabilized by Saturday.

Kerr said she relied on grit and determination to remain in the championship.

“You would think about just going home,” she said. “But not in this one.”

Kerr’s 21st season on the LPGA Tour has been eye-opening, considering that she has regularly challenged top players, some close to 20 years younger than her. The average age of the tour’s winners this year is 26.67, and Kerr has been the oldest to win this year.

Her 40th birthday is on the horizon (October 12), yet she has recorded six top-7 finishes this year, including a win in the Lotte Championship in April and a runner-up finish a week later at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout, in which she lost to Haru Nomura in a playoff that lasted six holes. She is currently ranked No. 14 in the world.

When asked earlier in the week how she has stayed competitive for more than two decades, Kerr joked, “Lots of wine.”

But she added that her longevity is the result of her desire to still square off with the tour’s younger competitors.

“I’m still a grinder with my practice,” Kerr said. “I love to compete and win and have a chance to be contending.”

And while Kerr has never been known as an overly sentimental player, she admits that her chance to step up on Sunday stems from how she feels about the game and what has driven her for so many years.

“Golf was the first thing I ever fell in love with,” she said. “And it’s a relationship that you can have for a lifetime.”

It just gets sweeter on Sundays, especially at the U.S. Women’s Open.

Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.

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