CARLSBAD, Calif. – The par on 18 was classic Kerr. Standing in the fairway with an 8-iron in hand, Cristie Kerr stood up on her approach shot – what she later called an anti-hook swing – and watched it sail right, rattling off rocks inside a picturesque hazard. She’d take a penalty drop, and then drain a 60-foot bomb to save par. She raised a fist into the air in triumph.
Talk about a mood swing.
“That’s Kerr,” said Lizette Salas, who played alongside the veteran in the penultimate group Saturday and now shares the lead at 10-under 206 with Kerr after three rounds at the Kia Classic. Sunday will be the first time Salas, who shot 69, has entered a final round with a share of the lead. The California native is seeking her first LPGA title. Kerr owns 16.
“I was one shot out in the Bahamas on Sunday,” said Salas, referring to the tour’s season-opener. “I felt great. I felt good. I felt comfortable. I think that’s the most important thing is to feel comfortable in the position you’re in.”
Kerr, a new mom to baby Mason, said she’d have a conversation with her mental guru, Joe Parent, before Sunday’s final round to sort through the lack of focus she felt coming down the stretch. Kerr bogeyed the par-5 17th, hitting two hooks in a row.
“I’ll be right as rain tomorrow,” she said, smiling.
Four players trail the leaders by two strokes. One of those trailers, Dori Carter, is the break-out darling of this event.
The former Ole Miss player with the Georgia drawl found herself in uncharted territory after Friday’s round; she was in the lead. Carter’s phone blew up so fast she thought it might die. Even the Ole Miss football coach sent her a tweet.
A pre-scheduled trip to Camp Pendleton with Austin Ernst provided a nice distraction. The pair put on a clinic for several dozen Marines and their families, though Carter said Ernst did most of the heavy lifting.
“I was joking around with them, hoping that I had some good shots left,” said Carter, who shot 64 on Friday. “I think my quota is met today.”
All jokes aside, Carter said her time with the Marines helped put things in perspective. She also played with several Marines in this week’s pro-am and wears a pin she was given on her hat.
“You kind of get a better insight on how great our life is and how thankful I am to have people like that to let me play golf,” Carter said. “So it was really actually good vibes.”
While the Marines provided the mojo, Carter sought the advice of childhood friend Harris English, a two-time PGA Tour winner, going into weekend play.
“He just told me not to change anything and just enjoy the ride,” Carter said, “kind of play like you’re behind.”
Carter now finds herself behind after a third-round 74, but certainly not out of it.
“I learned that it’s been a long process and you have to really, you know, take it hole‑by‑hole and breath by breath, and utilize your resources,” Carter said.
Lurking three shots back are a couple popular Americans in Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson. Lewis bogeyed three of her last five holes to shoot 73.
Last week’s winner, Karrie Webb, shot 67 and is tied for 11th.
The gallery on Sunday will no doubt be heavily swayed toward Salas, who grew up about 90 minutes away from Carlsbad in Azusa, Calif. Her family had about 100 purple shirts made for these next two weeks. The front reads, “Fight on Lily,” a nod to her USC roots, and the back reads, “Team Salas.”
When asked if Kerr planned to have shirts made up for Sunday’s round, she laughed and said, “No, my Team Kerr is my husband and a little 16-pound monster.”