- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 12, 2009

BETHLEHEM, Pa. | Cristie Kerr is feeling a sense of calm that only a former U.S. Women’s Open champion could understand.

Knowing what it takes to win the championship, the 2007 winner is set to make a push for another title.

Kerr scrambled for a 1-over 72 on Saturday and pulled away from struggling playing partner Paula Creamer and built a two-shot lead on Eun Hee Ji after three rounds of the Women’s Open.

Kerr was the only player with a sub-par score - 2-under 211 - after three rounds on the narrow fairways and speedy, undulating greens of Saucon Valley Country Club.

Now, Kerr, who won at Pine Needles in 2007, is in position for her second title in three years. She said she’s looking forward to the challenge.

“There really isn’t a better place for me,” the 12-time LPGA Tour winner said after two birdies and three bogeys. “I love this golf course. I feel good. I’m sure there’s going to be some nerves in the morning, but I’ve been there. I know I can handle it.”

Futures Tour player Jean Reynolds is an unlikely challenger for the title despite two wins in the developmental tour this year. The 24-year-old from Georgia started two strokes back and was one off the lead before stumbling down the stretch. She closed with a bogey at the 15th and back-to-back bogeys at 17 and 18 on the way to a 3-over 74. She’s tied for third at 2-over 215 with Teresa Lu, who had a 1-under 70.

Reynolds said she is anxious to make a run at the title in just her second Open.

“I love being in the hunt on Sunday,” the Futures Tour’s top money-winner said. “I just enjoy having the chance to win… and if I stumble, I try not to let it get to me.”

In-Kyung Kim (72), Hee Young Park (72) and Candie Kung (3-under 68) are tied for fifth at 3-over 216. Brittany Lincicome had a 2-over 73, Suzann Pettersen had a 1-over 72 and Kyeong Bae had a 2-under 69 and are tied for eighth at 4-over 217

The wind was blowing at the Old Course in the Lehigh Valley, drying out the putting surfaces and adding speed to the testy, undulating greens. A handful of players took advantage of the USGA’s move to shorten the distance of a number of holes to raise the risk-reward factor.

Ji, 23, took advantage. She offset three bogeys with four birdies for a 1-under 70 and even-par 213 total to earn a spot in the final group with Kerr in just her second Open.

“Every time I looked up at the leader board and see my name up there, it kind of gives me the excitement,” Ji said through an interpreter. “It makes me a little nervous, but in a good way where you can maybe compete a little harder.”

Others weren’t so lucky, namely Paula Creamer.

Creamer paired with Kerr on Saturday but fell from contention quickly. She had three bogeys on the front nine, a triple-bogey at 10 and a bogey at 11. She’s at 6-over 219 after an 8-over 79.

Creamer tried to get back into contention at No. 10, where the USGA used a front tee to make a drivable par-4. She took a chance, drove into a bunker, blasted over the green, then chipped short on the way to a triple-bogey 7.

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