Kerr beats Ochoa to first major championship

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Ochoa will have to wait until the Women’s British Open at St. Andrews for her next shot at winning a major, which is quickly turning into a bigger burden than she imagined. She’s 0-for-23 in the tournaments that define careers.

“I don’t need to be frustrated,” Ochoa said. “We still have one more major, and I’m going to try to get that one.”

Storm delays forced 63 players to return at dawn yesterday to complete the third round, and Kerr promptly made bogey. She didn’t make many more mistakes after that, and her only other bogey on a steamy, sunny day in the sand hills came from a bunker on the eighth hole of the final round that dropped her into a tie with Ochoa.

They each made par on the next five holes, with Ochoa missing a great birdie chance from eight feet on the 13th. It was typical of her long day, which began with Ochoa missing three putts inside seven feet at the end of the third round, two of them for par.

Then came the decisive birdie on No. 14, where Kerr ripped a drive and hit 4-iron from 190 yards that hopped onto the green and stopped about 18 feet behind the cut.

“If you hit a good shot, you can put some pressure on the other person,” Kerr said. “I ended up hitting an unbelievable shot and making an unbelievable putt.”

After Kerr’s birdie on the 14th, Ochoa never hit another green in regulation.

She tends to miss to the left under pressure, a flaw that exposed itself again in the late afternoon. Ochoa went left into a bunker on the par-5 15th, a hole she could have reached in two from the fairway. She had to save par from 15 feet to stay in the game.

The pivotal moment came on No. 17, one of the toughest at Pine Needles.

Kerr hit a draw around the dogleg left into the fairway, leaving her only a 7-iron to the green. Ochoa, as she did in the morning, tried to hammer a driver over the trees, but the ball nicked the top of the trees, dropping into a bunker. Ochoa caught her fairway metal heavy and moved it only 60 yards, hit a solid shot to 20 feet but missed the par putt.

“I was trying to put the ball on the green and just swung a little bit too fast, and I hit the ball on the top,” Ochoa said of her 5-wood out of the bunker. “It happens.”

That gave Kerr a two-shot lead heading to the 18th, and she drilled another one right down the middle, then followed with an approach safely on the green and a lag to two feet.

“When I hit it up there close, I had known I had won,” she said. “It was hard to fight back the tears because I had envisioned this since I was a little girl.”

This major was a long time coming for Kerr, a pioneer of sorts for women who now routinely skip college. She turned pro when she graduated high school, won in her sixth year on tour and has not finished out of the top five on the LPGA money list the last three years.

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