Kerr, McPherson locked atop State Farm

Cristie Kerr hits a tee shot on the 17th hole during the third round of the LPGA State Farm Classic.

Cristie Kerr hits a tee shot on the 17th hole during the third round of the LPGA State Farm Classic.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Cristie Kerr noticed the gusting wind and saw an opportunity. Now she has a shot at another victory.

Kerr made a big jump into a tie for the lead with Kristy McPherson at the State Farm Classic, delivering a dominant showing before a late fade in the third round on a windy Saturday.

“I did a lot of things right,” said Kerr, a 12-time tour winner.

Four strokes back after the second round, she settled for a 6-under 66 after bogeying two of the final three holes. McPherson (69) stumbled at the end, bogeying her final two holes, and that left them tied at 12-under 204 heading into the last round in the final tuneup for the LPGA Championship next week at Bulle Rock.

Jiyai Shin (69) was a shot behind. Second-round co-leaders Se Ri Pak (72) and Suzann Pettersen (72) were part of a crowd at 10 under that included Ai Miyazato (65), In-Kyung Kim (69), Amy Hung (69), Angela Stanford (69) and Helen Alfredsson (71), who shot her way into contention with a 63 on Saturday. Michelle Wie, meanwhile, fell out of it with a 77 that left her at 1 under.

With wind gusting to 32 mph, Kerr and McPherson dominated at times before those late problems. Even so, they were in a good position and a familiar spot.

The two traded leads on the final day of the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April but ultimately tied for second – McPherson’s lone top-10 finish – when Brittany Lincicome won on the final hole. The stakes aren’t as high this time, but both would love nothing more than to leave Panther Creek with the momentum heading into the season’s second major.

On a windswept afternoon, Kerr had it until the end.

“I’m a grinder,” she said. “I like tough conditions. The last couple days, they were shooting anywhere from 6 under to 9 under. I figured I needed a day like this to have an amazing round to get back into the hunt. That’s exactly what I did.”

The LPGA Tour’s money leader, Kerr drove a 7-wood to 30 feet and eagled the par-5 first hole and started racking up birdies – six in all – while rocketing to the top of the leaderboard. She was at 14 under after birdies on the par-5 13th and par-3 14th and alone in the lead before faltering down the stretch. She hit bunkers on both the 16th and 17th and two-putted for bogeys after decent shots out of the sand.

McPherson also got to 14 under before stumbling on the final two holes. She missed a 5-footer for par on No. 17 after hitting a bunker and finished her round by missing a 10-foot par putt on 18, but it was a good day overall for a player seeking her first victory in 56 career starts.

“It could have been worse out there,” McPherson said. “But it was definitely tough.”

Particularly for the second-round leaders.

Bogey-free and tied for the lead at 10 under through the first two rounds, Pak and Pettersen simply were off target on a windy afternoon. Alfredsson tailed off, too, after vaulting within a stroke of the lead.

Seeking her first win in two years, Pak just missed long birdie putts on the first two holes and bogeyed the par-4 fourth. A birdie on the par-3 fifth got her back to 10 under, but she missed an 8-footer for par on No. 8 and had a 2-footer on No. 9 lip out for another bogey, leaving her at 8 under.

“It was probably the longest day I ever had,” said Pak, a Hall of Famer and five-time major winner.

Pettersen, winless since the 2007 LPGA Championship, two-putted from 8 feet for a bogey on No. 5 and missed a 4-footer for par on No. 9 to go 8 under.

Alfredsson was steadier early on but nowhere near as spectacular as she was the previous day. She waved her right fist after sinking a 20-foot birdie on No. 5 and followed that with a birdie on the par-5 sixth, but a bogey on par-4 seventh halted her momentum.

“It was a different golf course today,” she said. “So many different shots. You had to take totally different lines.”

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