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Cristie Kerr has U.S. Open lead

After a woozy start, she goes on a birdie binge. Three U.S. golfers are the only players under par after two rounds.

July 11, 2009|Mark Wogenrich

BETHLEHEM, PA. — Cristie Kerr began her U.S. Women's Open round Friday feeling lightheaded, possibly because of a pre-round cardio workout or bit of dehydration. She played three holes before taking a practice swing that finally grazed the ground.

"I just didn't feel great, so I didn't have the feel and I hit some pretty bad shots," Kerr said. "And I just wanted to feel a little better. I knew if I did that, I'd get the feel back. And that's what happened."

Energized after a wobbly start, Kerr blazed a trail to the finish Friday, making three consecutive birdies, and five in eight holes, to shoot a one-under-par 70 and take a one-shot lead over Paula Creamer at three-under 139. Creamer dazzled her generous galleries with a three-under 68.

Three Americans sit atop the Saucon Valley Country Club leaderboard after two rounds, and they are the only three players under par. Jean Reynolds, the 24-year-old Futures Tour pro, overcame some early weak knees to finish with a 72 and a one-under total. She will play today with first-round leader Na Yeon Choi, who followed her opening 68 with a second-round 74.

Alexis Thompson, a 14-year-old amateur playing in her third consecutive Open, shot a 73 and is at two over. Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa soared to a 79 and is nine behind Kerr.

Once more, the Old Course rattled cages Friday, though there might be some relief on the weekend. The U.S. Golf Assn. will begin unveiling some of its risk/reward tees today, including a few drivable par-fours that may tempt some to be aggressive.

The greens, however, won't get any easier. Friday's scoring average was 76.281. Not a single player said they could putt with any sense of aggressiveness, and Kerr mentioned that three greens in particular (5, 9 and 18) were getting "crunchy."

"There are maybe three or four birdie holes, if you're lucky," said Morgan Pressel, who four-putted one green on her way to a 75. "If your short game is money, you can shoot two or three under par. That's about it."

Following her woozy start, Kerr indeed was money. She arrived at her first hole, No. 10, without her usual burst, which she ascribed to a lightheaded feeling. Water and vitamin drinks got her through three uncomfortable holes, but Kerr arrived at 13 feeling fit again.

"I kind of flushed whatever I was feeling out of my system," she said. "I drank a lot of water and started to feel better. Once I started to feel better, I got the feel back on 13, which is a good place for it to show up."

Beginning at 15, Kerr went on a birdie tear that moved her to four under and a three-shot lead. She got there without having to make a birdie putt longer than nine feet.

Buzzing from the birdie run, Kerr pulled a five-wood at the par-five first hole and tried to reach the green in two. Instead, she fell into a tangled rough lie and made bogey, the first of two straight.

"Got a little greedy, and I think I learned my lesson," Kerr said. "Just get it in the fairway. Doesn't matter what. You could have a seven-iron in. It's better than being in the rough with a sand wedge. But you have those moments in the U.S. Open where they either work out or they don't. And when they don't, you learn from them."

Reynolds has won $63,650 on the Futures Tour this year, which is about what a 10th-place finish will pay this week. Behind her today, thousands will flock to watch Kerr and Creamer.

"We'll see what tomorrow brings," she said.

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mark.wogenrich@mcall.com

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