Cristie Kerr has not been happy with her form on the 2018 LPGA Tour but she took great comfort from a solid ball-striking display in the third round at Royal Lytham & St Annes on Saturday as she vaulted up the Ricoh Women’s British Open leaderboard with a sizzling run on her outward nine.
Long known as one of the best putters in the women's game, Kerr sank several monster putts, including a 38-footer for eagle on the par-five sixth, to reach the turn in five-under 30. Though she cooled off on the back nine and left several putts short of the cup as light breezes shifted back and forth on the Lancashire coastline, she had a smile on her face after signing for a four-under 68 that earned her a four-under total of 212.
"I hit it so much better today," Kerr told LPGA.com after getting up and down from left of the green at the par-four 18th to save par. "I changed up my routine, worked a lot on my swing yesterday and this morning. Just kind of found my rhythm out there with my ball-striking, but also made a lot of putts.
"I wasn't as low as I wanted today but I played a lot better so that's kind of satisfying. I could have been six or seven under easy today so, who knows? If the weather is going to be good like this tomorrow, there could be a low number out there. You never know. You get into the clubhouse and post something. I'm just trying to give it my all."
Kerr, a two-time major winner whose best finish at the Women's British Open was a tie for second at Royal Lytham in 2006, made an electrifying start to her day when she drained a 30-footer for birdie on the par-three opening hole. A five-iron to 38 feet set up her eagle at the sixth, and she narrowly missed out on another eagle at the par-five seventh.
"I only had 25 feet there for eagle and I could have made that, but instead made birdie," she grinned. An unexpected chip-in birdie at the par-three ninth, which she described as "ridiculous", came when she had to negotiate tricky right-to-left mounds after leaving her tee shot five yards short of the green.
"I hit it perfect," smiled Kerr. "It was like (NBA star) Steph Curry with a free shot that never touched the rim, that's how it went in. After that, I had a makeable birdie putt on 10 that I missed, same on 11, same on 12. My round could have been a lot lower. I bogeyed 15. I hit it into the left bunker and got a little quick or something, or just caught it too clean trying to hit a little lower bunker shot, and sent it over the green. And then I hit a five-footer for par and it lipped out. But I made a great save on 17 and on 18. This course is tough."
Tough Royal Lytham may be, but it has always been a beloved venue for Kerr who ranks the par-72 layout along with Royal Birkdale and Hoylake as her top-three links courses in the United Kingdom.
“This has always been one of my favourite golf courses,” she said. “It starts off really strong, it gives you some opportunities in the middle and then it finishes really, really strong as well. You try to take advantage of the holes where you can.”
Kerr, a 20-time winner on the LPGA Tour, has not tasted victory since the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia last October but she hopes that her impressive third-round form at Royal Lytham can reignite a 2018 season that includes just two top-10 finishes in 16 starts.
"I'm not happy with my season so far," she said. "A lot of stuff going on, but that's golf. A lot of stuff, a lot of stuff - but good stuff. Some family stuff too. t is what it is but that never really affects my golf. I always leave that stuff outside the ropes.
"Just my ball-striking has been pretty inconsistent this year. If I hit it like I did today the rest of the year, I'm hoping to get a win. We'll see. Today was a good step in the right direction."