Three share 54-hole lead at Kia Classic after Cristie Kerr falls back

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Three share 54-hole lead at Kia Classic after Cristie Kerr falls back

LPGA Tour

Three share 54-hole lead at Kia Classic after Cristie Kerr falls back

CARLSBAD, Calif. – What could’ve been a Cristie Kerr walkover has turned into a shootout at the Kia Classic. Kerr’s five-shot lead went poof on Aviara’s tricky Poa annua greens. She now trails a trio of players at 11-under 205 by one heading into the final round. One day after Kerr broke the 36-hole scoring record at this event, she put up a 75.

“Mentally just wasn’t quite as sharp,” said Kerr. “Swing wasn’t quite as sharp. I mean, every putt I hit like bounced horribly. Like a lot of putts didn’t have a chance to go in the hole. I don’t know why it was different today on the greens.”

Lizette Salas held her godson, Mason, in her arms as she conducted post-round interviews. With dozens of friends and family on hand this week, the pride of Azusa, Calif., finds herself in a share of first place with major winners Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Salas became a first-time winner at the 2014 Kingsmill Championship. Last season she notched a personal-best eight top-10 finishes, including a stretch that included four top-five showings in five starts.

“You know, a lot of could haves,” said Salas, likely referring to the three-putt for par she had on the drivable par-4 16th. “But I’m not going to dwell on that. Just going to be fortunate to be in this position again and just give it my all tomorrow.”

Meanwhile Kim, a three-time winner in 2017, recovered from back-to-back bogeys to start the day and finished with a 3-under 69. It’s been a wild run for Kim, whose bag was stolen coming back from the first event of the season on a flight from Miami to San Diego. A trio of Good Samaritans found Kim’s bag at a local Play It Again Sports and turned it into the Carlsbad Police. Kim was reunited with at least some of her clubs this week but hasn’t had time to test her old equipment to consider putting them back in her bag. She hopes to try out the hybrids at the beginning of next week’s ANA Inspiration.

Four players are tied at 10 under, including Cindy LaCrosse, Caroline Hedwall and Wei-Ling Hsu. It wasn’t too long ago that LaCrosse considered leaving the game after she lost her card. Hedwall endured some struggles of her own after becoming the first player to post a 5-0-0 record at the Solheim Cup five years ago.

“I kind of hit rock bottom,” said LaCrosse. “I thought about quitting every day for like a year. But I would hit good shots sometimes and I knew like I can still do it.”

She hired a new coach, didn’t play in a tournament for five months and hit the reset button. This week feels good.

Both LaCrosse and Hedwall are gunning to get high enough on the money list (top 80) after this week to qualify for the ANA.

“We were kind of doing some numbers yesterday to see if I could book stuff yet,” said LaCrosse. “I’m still going to wait, just in case.”

Anna Nordqvist, a two-time major champion and past champion at the Kia, sits within two strokes after a sizzling 66.

Kerr won three times worldwide in 2017 but said the story of this year is consistency. She was off to work on the range with her instructor, grateful that she only trials by one with 18 to play.

“Somebody else (gets) to sleep with the lead,” she said.

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