Kerr, Pressel give U.S. success in majors

Cristie Kerr
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Cristie Kerr finished at five under par.

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. (AP) — They are such good friends that Cristie Kerr picked Morgan Pressel to be one of her bridesmaids when she married in December, and they have much in common.

Both groomed their golf games in south Florida, heading straight from high school to the LPGA Tour. Kerr did so 10 years ago, when teens on the tour was not in vogue. Both bare their emotions inside the ropes, shouting instructions at their golf balls in a tone better suited for Fort Bragg.

Lately, they have combined to give Americans major success not seen on the LPGA Tour in seven lean years.

Pressel became the youngest major champion in LPGA history in April when, at age 18, she played without a bogey over the final 24 holes on a fast, difficult Mission Hills course. Her one-shot victory in the Kraft Nabisco Championship was the first by an American since 1999.

Kerr's major was a long time coming.

She was 0-for-41 in Grand Slam events until winning the U.S. Women's Open on Sunday at Pine Needles, where she made three clutch par putts and a decisive birdie putt from 18 feet on the 14th hole to beat Lorena Ochoa of Mexico, the No. 1 player in women's golf.

It was the first time Americans won multiple majors in an LPGA season since 2000, when 40-year-old Juli Inkster won the LPGA Championship and 37-year-old Meg Mallon captured the final edition of the du Maurier Classic.

There weren't many young Americans equipped to take up the baton then.

There appears to be no shortage now.

"Every year, more and more cute young amateur girls with ribbons in their hair are coming up," Kerr said. "It's terrific."

It's not just 12-year-old Alexis Thompson, who became the youngest qualifier of the Women's Open, or 17-year-old Mina Harigae, who showed up at Pine Needles having won the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links.

Take a look at the U.S. Solheim Cup team standings. Seven of the top 10 players are under 30.

But a closer look at the leaderboard at Pine Needles, or the last month in majors on the LPGA Tour, shows Americans are nowhere near dominating golf the way they did a decade ago.

For the first time in U.S. Women's Open history, there were more foreign-born players than Americans in the field. When the second round finally ended Saturday, as many South Koreans as Americans made the cut — 24 apiece.

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