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Kerr routs LPGA field, seals No. 1 rank

6/27/2010 - Golf

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Soaked in champagne and poised to become the first American ranked first in the world, Cristie Kerr was left amazed and near speechless after completing one of the most dominating performances at the LPGA Championship -- and any other major for that matter.

"It's a dream performance," Kerr said Sunday after winning her second major title by a whopping 12 strokes at Locust Hill Country Club. "It's like you wake up or you dream -- I can't even speak right now. Winning by two or three is great, but winning by 12 shots is ridiculous. It's obscene."

Kerr, the 2007 U.S. Women's Open champion, closed with a 6-under 66 for a 19-under 269 total. She led wire-to-wire, opening with rounds of 68, 66 and 69.

Kerr broke the tournament record for victory margin of 11 set by Betsy King in 1992 and matched the second-biggest victory in a major. Louise Suggs set the record of 14 in the 1949 U.S. Women's Open and Babe Zaharias won the 1954 U.S. Open by 12 strokes.

"I didn't limit myself," Kerr said referring to a tournament in which she carded 23 birdies and only four bogeys -- and none Sunday. "I wanted to see how far I could take it. And I took it pretty far. ... I don't think I could've played better."

By winning the $337,500 purse at the $2.25 million tournament, Kerr was projected by the LPGA to overtake Japan's Ai Miyazato when the world rankings are released Monday. Miyazato needed to finish second to guarantee she would remain at No. 1.

Miyazato opened the day at 1 over. She mounted a big rally with seven birdies before closing with a bogey 5 after hitting her tee shot into the rough. The four-time winner on the LPGA tour this season shot 66 to finish at 5 under in a tie for third with Jiyai Shin (71), the world's No. 2 player. Song-Hee Kim (69) finished second at 7 under.

"It was a little disappointing on the last hole, but I played really good, and didn't expect I could shoot like 6 or 7 under," Miyazato said. "I did my job, so it makes me feel good."

What blew her away was Kerr's dominance.

"That's almost too good," Miyazato said, figuring 8 under would be good enough to win the tournament. "She's just amazing. I played really good, too, but she is just better than me."

Kerr was so far ahead that Kim never believed she had any chance.

"Forgot about her. She was too far away," Kim said. "I tried to clear my mind and tried to have the best game that I can."

Kerr became the first American to win the LPGA Championship since Juli Inkster in 2000, and will become only the fifth player to hold the No. 1 spot since the rankings were introduced in 2006.

"It's very important to me. I always wanted to be the No. 1 player in the world," Kerr said. "It's great to be No. 1, but I just got there. To be No. 1, I feel in my heart you have to keep proving it."

Kerr began the final round with an eight-stroke lead on a humid, overcast day. She opened with six straight pars before birdieing three of her next four holes. She added four more birdies on the back nine, and began celebrating while walking up the 18th fairway, having stuck her approach shot within 5 feet. She raised her arms, broke into a wide smile and hugged playing partner Jimin Kang.

After sinking her birdie putt, Kerr pumped her fist and raised her arms before breaking into tears. She was then doused by champagne by friend and fellow LPGA Tour player Natalie Gulbis.

This was Kerr's 14th win in 14 years on the tour. It's also her second victory -- and fourth top-three finish -- this season after winning the State Farm Classic two weeks ago.

The only question was whether she would pass Miyazato in the rankings. Miyazato matched Kerr in carding the day's low round despite the bogey on No. 18.

Kerr's rise comes with women's golf going through a changing of the guard. In April, Lorena Ochoa followed Annika Sorenstam into retirement, leaving a vacuum at the top.

Kerr was set to become the third player at No. 1 in three weeks. Miyazato supplanted Shin last week by winning the ShopRite LPGA Classic, her fourth victory of the year.

Americans have won only four of the past 14 majors, with Kerr winning two of them. Americans also have won only four of the past 30 LPGA Tour events, with Kerr winning three times.

Kerr intends to skip the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic in Ohio next weekend to rest up for the U.S. Women's Open that starts July 8 at Oakmont, Pa.

After winning this weekend, Kerr's aware the expectations on her will be even greater.

"I'm there now, but I have to prove that I deserve to be there," Kerr said. "So there is still a lot of work ahead. But it feels awfully good right now."