BETHLEHEM, PA. — Last week, Cristie Kerr defused the LPGA's commissioner frenzy by encouraging questions about her budding winemaking business. Asked how she's unwinding after each grueling round at Saucon Valley Country Club, Kerr didn't miss a beat.
"Wine," she said. "Wine and good food."
Must be a good vintage. The 31-year-old Kerr takes a two-shot lead into today's final round of the U.S. Women's Open, seeking her second title in three years. And she has the nerves, the putter, the position and the confidence to ensure she's popping another cork tonight.
Kerr is the only player under par through three rounds, reaching two-under 211 after a one-over 72 on Saturday, with Eun Hee Ji at even par.
Kerr maintained her composure as others around her didn't (witness Paula Creamer's triple bogey at the short 10th) and is one of only six players without a three-putt all week. Kerr also has yet to make a double bogey.
Further, she's making them chase, and that will be a tall order on the Old Course. Of the six players within five shots of Kerr, only one has shot below 74 in a previous Women's Open final round. That would be Candie Kung, whose finishing 70 in 2005 helped her to tie for sixth.
"I think I have the advantage," Kerr said. "I have won every way there is to win out on tour. I was leading the U.S. Open at Pine Needles [in 2007] when I ended up winning. I've also come from eight shots behind in an LPGA tournament to win. I think with my experience leading the way, to have the lead is the advantage."
Saturday at Saucon Valley was a little shorter but just as difficult and perhaps even more frustrating. The USGA shortened nine holes, taking 256 yards off the Old Course's length, but still cut hole locations on some bewildering property. Only two players in the last 10 groups, Ji and Teresa Lu, broke par. The results made Lorena Ochoa (73) throw a ball, Morgan Pressel (69) throw a club and Creamer (79) nearly come to tears on the 10th green.
"It could be one of the hardest Open courses I've ever played," Kerr said, "And I'm loving the challenge."
Ji is two back after fairways-and-greens rounds of 71-72-70. She leads the field in greens in regulation (hitting 74.1%) and, with some more efficient lag putting, probably would be under par. Ji has four three-putts through three rounds.
Jean Reynolds, the 24-year-old Futures Tour pro, continued her upbeat tour of Saucon. With pars at the final two holes, Reynolds would have been in the final pairing with Kerr. But she bogeyed them both and is five back.
"I'm having a blast here this week, so I'm going to do the same thing tomorrow," Reynolds said. "I just don't feel like I've got anything to lose."