Kerr first American to claim No. 1 in Rolex Rankings
Battle at the top heightens interest in LPGA Tour
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., June 28, 2010 – Cristie Kerr of the U.S. has risen to the top-ranked women’s golf position in the world, based on the Rolex Rankings released Monday. Kerr claimed the No. 1 spot for the first time in her career after winning her second major championship on Sunday, the LPGA Championship Presented by Wegmans. Kerr is the third player in as many weeks to hold the top position, following Jiyai Shin of South Korea and Ai Miyazato of Japan.
“It means a tremendous amount,” Kerr said about the No. 1 ranking. “It's something that I've wanted my whole life, I worked for my whole life. I take great pride in being the top American.”
“I said earlier in the week it's great to be No. 1, but I just got there. I'm there now, but I have to prove that I deserve to be there. So there is still a lot of work ahead. It feels awfully good right now.”
Kerr grabbed the coveted No. 1 spot from Ai Miyazato who held the position for one week after she won the ShopRite LPGA Classic, her fourth victory of the 2010 season. Prior to Miyazato, the No. 1 position was held for seven consecutive weeks by South Korea’s Jiyai Shin. Shin ascended to the No. 1 position when long-time Rolex Rankings No. 1 Lorena Ochoa retired. The only other player to hold the top spot is LPGA Tour legend Annika Sorenstam.
Kerr opened the 2010 season with a tie for fourth at the Honda PTT LPGA Thailand and a solo second at the HSBC Women’s Champions in February. She gained her third top-10 of 2010 at the year’s first major with a tie for fifth at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April and then won the LPGA State Farm Classic two weeks ago. Kerr has not finished lower than 22nd in an event all season.
However, Kerr will have to battle to keep the top spot. Since Ochoa’s retirement, the race for No. 1 has been hotly contested. At last week’s LPGA Championship Presented by Wegmans, any number of the top six players in the world at the beginning of last week – Miyazato, Shin, Suzann Pettersen, Yani Tseng, Kerr and Anna Nordqvist – could have been No. 1 Monday.
Since its launch on February 21, 2006, as the first-ever comprehensive world rankings system for women’s golf, the Rolex Rankings had been dominated by Sorenstam and Ochoa. Points are awarded based on the field strength and evaluate a player’s performance over a rolling two-year period weighted in favor of the current year with even more importance placed on the most recent 13 weeks.
Kerr was an amateur prodigy who bypassed college to turn professional at the age of 18. She started her professional career on the Duramed FUTURES Tour in 1996 and was an LPGA rookie in 1997. A tough inaugural season sent Kerr back to the LPGA qualifying school in the fall of 1998 where she earned co-medalist honors with Se Ri Pak and exempt status for the 1998 season. It took Kerr nearly five more years to become a Rolex First-Time winner at the 2002 Longs Drugs Challenge. She next won the Takefuji Classic in 2004 and proceeded to win two more tournaments that year. Kerr has not had a season without a win since. She captured her first major championship title with a two-shot victory at the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles Country Club in Pinehurst, N.C.
Kerr has recently become a strong advocate for building junior girls’ golf programs such as LPGA-USGA Girls Golf. She is also heavily involved in raising money for breast cancer research through her foundation, Birdies for Breast Cancer, which she started shortly after her mother Linda was diagnosed with the disease. The foundation has raised more than $1 million through various fund-raising efforts, including a golf outing featuring LPGA players at Liberty National Golf Club; proceeds from Curvature Wines made in partnership with Pride Mountain Winery; a partnership with Kwiat Jewelry to design an exclusive collection to benefit the foundation; and a matching pledge program with Mutual of Omaha. In 2009, Kerr also announced a partnership with Liberty Health to create a new women's health center at the Jersey City Medical Center that will provide breast cancer screenings to the uninsured as well as the insured.