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Revitalized Kerr makes her move Defending champion rallies on back nine

A familiar name made a noticeable ascent on the leader board Saturday at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

Cristie Kerr, who won by a tournament-record 12 strokes last year, entered the third round at Locust Hill Country Club at even par, tied for 38th. After tapping in her par putt on No. 18 for a 67, she was 5 under for the tournament and had jumped 33 positions, into a tie for fifth.

"For the past couple of days I've been hitting it so bad," Kerr said. "I just kind of simplified it a little bit; maybe I was thinking a little too much. I just kind of went back to a little feel that I had that works. That's golf sometimes."

Last year, Kerr matched the lowest score in relation to par in a major championship at 19 under. Her victory propelled her to the No. 1 ranking in the world, becoming the first American to ever hold the position. Kerr has since dropped to second on the list but Saturday she made sure the field was aware of her presence.

The bogey-free round put Kerr eight shots behind the lead, giving her an outside shot heading into the final day.

"It definitely gives me the momentum," Kerr said. "I'm just going to go out there and take care of my own job."

The round was an up-and-down effort for Kerr, who had to scramble on several occasions. Par saves on Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 9 allowed her to finish the front nine at 1 under, a "miracle," she said.

It was Kerr's putter that kept her alive in the round, and the 14-time tour winner said it's the style of greens at Locust Hill that have allowed her to have so much success at the tournament.

"I love the greens here," Kerr said. "They are my style of greens. They're fast, they're undulated, and there is a lot of break to them. I like those kind of greens."

The scrambling started on the par-3 fifth hole when Kerr put her tee shot into a greenside bunker. She followed that with a chip to 15 feet and sank the comeback putt. But she wasn't done. Kerr sank another 15-footer on the next hole after her approach hit the fringe and skidded past the hole. On No. 7, Kerr hit her drive to the far right in the middle of the gallery, but ended the par-4 with a short par putt after an "amazing chip." A 10-foot putt on the par-3 ninth made it two sand saves and Kerr had seen enough.

"From there I got determined. I said, 'I don't want to keep doing this. This is not going to work for me.' I was able to find it on the back," she said.

Kerr said she wasn't more aggressive when she got four birdies over the final nine holes; rather she was just able to find her stroke.

"Well, I didn't play well on the front," she said. "If you would have seen me on the front versus the back, you would have thought I was two different golfers. But, I scrambled my rear off. I really did.

"It was just a great effort to be able to wait to find my game on the back, and on the back I just played really solid. I'm just so proud of myself for the way I hung in there and gave myself a chance to shoot a good score on the back and kind of get back in it."

Last year, Kerr twice shot a 66 on her way to victory. If she were to go that low today, she would still be two strokes behind leader Yani Tseng's current score of 13 under.

Tseng noticed Kerr's score on the leader board at 18, but said she'll remain focused on her game today.

"This is a course that suits her," Tseng said of Kerr. "I'm not thinking too much [about her]. But, she is a great player and a good competitor."

e-mail: rmarfurt@buffnews.com