Cristie Kerr soared to a 12-stroke victory at the LPGA Championship on Sunday in one of the most lopsided wins at a major, leaving her in position to become the first American to be ranked No. 1.
Kerr closed with a birdie for six-under 66, finishing at 19-under 269 and leading all four rounds. It was her second major title, the other coming at the 2007 US Women’s Open.
“It’s been such an amazing week,” she said. “To play here well on a golf course this tough and to win by that many shots in a major championship — that’s just unreal.”
Kerr began the final round with an eight-stroke lead on a humid, overcast day at Locust Hill Country Club. She opened with six straight pars, before carding birdies on three of her next four holes.
By winning the US$337,500 purse, Kerr was projected by the LPGA to overtake Japan’s Ai Miyazato when the world rankings were released yesterday. Miyazato needed to finish second to remain No. 1.
Kerr is the first American to win the LPGA Championship since Juli Inkster in 2000. She becomes only the fifth player to hold the No. 1 spot since the rankings were introduced in 2006.
“It’s a dream performance,” Kerr said. “It’s like you wake up or you dream — I can’t even speak right now. Winning by two or three is great, but winning by 12 shots is ridiculous. It’s obscene.”
Miyazato opened the day at one-over. She mounted a big rally with seven birdies, before closing with a bogey-five after hitting her tee shot into the rough. The four-time winner on the LPGA Tour this season shot 66 to finish at five-under in a tie for third with Shin Ji-yai (71), the world No. 2. Kim Song-hee (69) finished second.
Taiwan’s Yani Tseng shot a 73 to finish tied for 19th spot on one-over, while compatriot Amy Hung carded a 70 for a three-over total. Taiwan’s Teresa Lu was another four shots back after a 76, while Candie Kung’s final-round 76 left her on 13-over.
Kerr’s margin of victory beat the previous LPGA Championship record set by Betsy King in 1992 by one stroke. Among all LPGA majors, the 12-stroke advantage is tied for second on the list with Babe Zaharias’ victory at the 1954 US Open. Louise Suggs holds the record with a 14-stroke victory at the 1949 US Women’s Open.
Kerr began celebrating while walking up the 18th fairway. She raised her arms, broke into a wide smile and hugged playing partner Kang Ji-min.
After sinking her birdie putt, Kerr pumped her fist and raised her arms, before breaking into tears. She was then doused in champagne by friend and fellow LPGA Tour player Natalie Gulbis.
This was Kerr’s 14th win in 14 years on the Tour. It’s also her second victory — and fourth top-three finish — this season after winning the State Farm Classic two weeks ago.
“I didn’t limit myself,” Kerr said referring to a tournament in which she carded 23 birdies and only four bogeys — none on Sunday. “I wanted to see how far I could take it and I took it pretty far ... I don’t think I could’ve played better.”
Miyazato matched Kerr in carding the day’s lowest round, despite a bogey on 18.
“It was a little disappointing on the last hole, but I played really good and didn’t expect I could shoot like six or seven-under,” Miyazato said. “I did my job, so it makes me feel good.”
What blew her away was Kerr’s dominance.
“That’s almost too good,” Miyazato said, figuring eight-under would be good enough to win the tournament. “She’s just amazing. I played really good too, but she is just better than me.”