Oakmont, Pa. – Cristie Kerr showed more than a few glimpses of why she is the No. 1-ranked woman golfer in the world Thursday afternoon at Oakmont Country Club.
Rebounding from a disappointing start and hanging tough after the high temperatures started to wear her down to the point that she was feeling dizzy, Kerr battled to a 1-over-par 72 in the opening round of the 65th U.S. Women’s Open and is very much in the hunt for her second national title and second major victory this season.
I was kind of fighting momentum all day, said Kerr, who won the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open and is coming off a dominating performance in the LPGA Championship, her 14th LPGA Tour title and a triumph that lifted her to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings. I didn’t have a lot of momentum, but I didn’t really make a lot of mistakes today.
With temperatures well above 90 degrees and threesomes taking nearly 6 hours to tour oppressive Oakmont, Kerr couldn’t have gotten off to a much worse start than her bogey-bogey effort. The first came after a long, straight drive into the fairway followed by an approach that trundled over the green and led to a pitch 20 feet past the hole. When she missed the fairway left with an iron at the short par-4 second, leading to another bogey, the 32-year-old from Miami appeared shaken and tentative.
Yeah, it was a tough start, said Kerr, playing in her 15th U.S. Women’s Open. Had a great tee shot off the first hole, and, you know, I was kind of in between clubs. You can't miss short there; even if you hit it over where I did is fine. I just misjudged how firm the bounce and the chip would be, and I bogeyed the first and then hit in the rough on the second.
Kerr, who has five top-10 Open finishes, including a tie for third a year ago at Saucon Valley after holding the 36- and 54-hole leads, steadied herself with a fine par save at the uphill par-4 third, and then birdied the next two holes to get back to level par.
Her only other blemish on the scorecard coming home occurred at the par-3 13th. She missed the green and failed to get up and down from a tough position inside the deep left greenside bunker.
The heat got to me a little bit on the par3. Just was a little lightheaded, Kerr said. I thought the putt was going to be faster and kind of lost it mentally for a second, and realized I needed to start drinking some Gatorade. Unfortunately, that was a mental error.
But, all in all, she couldn’t be too disappointed. It was her ability to stay in the round mentally at the start that saved her from a ruinous score.
I hung in there today pretty well, and I think that's a pretty good start for me in this tournament, she said.
Indeed, if that is her tough day, it bodes well for the rest of the week.
Dave Shedloski is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.