Feng retains lead, while Kerr still earning attention at U.S. Women's Open

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Feng retains lead, while Kerr still earning attention at U.S. Women's Open

LPGA Tour

Feng retains lead, while Kerr still earning attention at U.S. Women's Open

BEDMINSTER, N.J. – Cristie Kerr stood off the 15th green after an all-world par save and started doing jumping jacks to get the attention of President Donald Trump. She waved and danced but to no avail. Trump had his back turned in his special viewing box at Trump National Golf Club. But he was front and center to give Kerr two thumbs up as she made her way to scoring and invited her up. After Kerr wrapped up her media obligations, she got a pat-down from security officers before entering the suite with her husband and caddie.

When asked what they might talk about up there, Kerr quipped: “I’m not going to talk politics, I can tell you that.”

Kerr, the lone American in the top 10, sits five shots back of leader Shanshan Feng, who had her own amusing run-in with the Chinese president after earning Olympic bronze in Rio de Janeiro. Medalists from all sports were lined up to shake hands with President Xi Jinping in China at a special celebration. When Xi got to Feng, she was so overwhelmed by his “charm” that she blurted out “President, you’re so handsome!”

“He was shocked,” she said. “He actually stepped back and then shake my hand again. So the others got two seconds, I actually got to meet him four seconds.”

Feng made 17 pars and a birdie on Saturday to finish at 9-under 207, one shot in front of Amy Yang (70) and the South Korean amateur Hye-Jin Choi (70). There are six South Koreans within four shots of the lead and a staggering nine in the top 10.

Choi’s 8-under 208 is the lowest 54-hole total by an amateur in U.S. Women’s Open history. On Sunday she’ll look to become only the second amateur to win this championship, joining Catherine LaCoste (1967).

Kerr won the Women’s Open title 10 years ago at Pine Needles. She has won nine times since then, including what was then known as the LPGA Championship.

At age 39, Kerr is out to break stereotypes on a tour where players win LPGA titles before they get a driver’s license. Kerr was a terrific junior player in her own right, of course, but it’s her longevity in that game that now makes her unique.

As Kerr stood near the 15th green gesturing wildly to get the president to look her direction, her husband Erik Stevens couldn’t help but note the similarity between Trump and Kerr: both love to be the center of attention. When Kerr was a kid playing in amateur events, she used to invite people out at restaurants to come watch her play. She thrives on an audience.

Jul 15, 2017; Bedminster, NJ, USA; Cristie Kerr talks with United States President Donald Trump during the third round of the U.S. Women’s Open at Trump National Golf Club-New Jersey. (Eric Sucar-USA TODAY Sports)

Kerr was mad she didn’t qualify for the Olympics last year. Hated that she fell out of the top 15. She wants to be the hero at the Solheim Cup in August and the next American player ushered into the LPGA Hall of Fame.

“I think she feels like she still has something left to prove in the game,” said Stevens. “She doesn’t like being an after-thought. She’s always been an I’m-going-to-prove-you-wrong player.”

On Friday at the Women’s Open, Kerr was treated for back pain by LPGA physical therapist Curtis Crook as she made her way down the 18th. The back spasms first flared up last Sunday at the LPGA event in Wisconsin. It progressed from annoying to debilitating, Stevens said.

“Any other tournament in the world you would think about just going home,” said Kerr, “not this one.”

Feng looks to be the first start-to-finish winner of this championship (with no ties) since Hollis Stacy in 1977. She’s already made history. Feng is the first player in Women’s Open history to record only one bogey in 54 holes.

Should she triumph on Sunday, Feng would become the first Chinese player to win this championship. While Feng enjoyed such a memorable exchange with President Xi, she humorously deflected a question about what she might say to Trump on Sunday should they meet on the 18th green.

“You want to talk about what I’m wearing tomorrow?” she asked, laughing.

For the record, she’s bringing back those cow-print shorts for the final round. Couldn’t have scripted it better.

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