Starting the day with a five-shot cushion over the field most felt Kerr, 22 times a winner on the world’s premiere women’s circuit, was all but assured a second Kia Classic title.
But as is so often the case in golf, the vagaries of the game conspired to make that less of a sure thing than it seemed 24 hours previous as Kerr somehow amassed one of only two over-par rounds among the top 34 players on the leaderboard.
From five in front and dictating terms she will instead head to Sunday’s final round one behind a group of three players and, while still very much in the mix, on the wrong side of momentum.
Lizette Salas, Eun Hi Jee and I.K Kim share top spot through 54 holes at 11-under with Kerr a stroke further back following a maddening 75.
That score was a full 11 shots worse than her Friday effort when she looked to have established such a stranglehold on the tournament.
Saturday started badly with a bogey at the second and even though a birdie at the par-5 5th was good to make the turn even par, those figures were never going to hold up on a low scoring day.
Check out this shot by Cristie Kerr on 15 off the cart path!March 25, 2018
After a second dropped shot of the day at 12 Kerr appeared rattled and her play three holes later confirmed it.
A tee shot that found the hazard left led to the unusual decision to take a drop on the concrete cart path. Needing ot hit a significant hook to find the green, that option was preferable to the deep grass which bordered both sides of the path.
However, she overcooked the required right to left flight and missed the green in deep rough. When she couldn’t get up and down, it was a double bogey six which dropped her out of a share of the lead for the first time.
"I just didn't have it," she said by way of explanation after the round. "I;ve got to go work on my game a little bit."
Despite a birdie at the 16th to climb back to a share of the lead Kerr faltered once again at the final hole and will now start the final round one shot back and, despite being known as one of the game’s grittiest competitors, it will take all her resolve if she is to fight back tomorrow and win.
With Kerr coming back to the field and the leading score now two less than it was through 36 holes the hopes of Lydia Ko remain alive following a 2-under 70.
Ko is at 7-under for the week, four off the pace and in a share of seventh place, and with a score in the mid 60’s tomorrow could well be a contender.
The Australians challenge is less optimistic, Minjee Lee, Sarah Jane Smith and Katherine Kirk the only three to qualify for the weekend but and all sitting 3-under.
With eight shots and 39 players separating them from the leaders a victory is mathematically unlikely.
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