Cristie Kerr made a 35-foot putt for birdie on the 72nd hole to win the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia tournament at TPC Kuala Lumpur with a four-day total of 15-under 269.
When that putt dropped, a flurry of career milestones were met. The win was her 20th on the LPGA Tour. The $US270,000 first-place cheque pushed her career earnings past the $US19 million mark, making her the third woman in LPGA history to do so, joining Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb. And with the win, Kerr also became the first woman in her 40s to win on tour since 2011, when Catriona Matthew won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
All of that, thanks to the pressure-filled putt on 18 that helped her avoid a four-way playoff with Danielle Kang, Shanshan Feng and Jacqui Concolino.
“When I hit it, I could just tell it was going in,” Kerr said. “It was the most amazing thing. Like it was perfect speed; if it missed, it was going to be two feet by. It was right in the centre – never even thought about missing.”
Though the line the putt travelled was free of doubt, the same can’t be said for the rest of the round. Kerr had to work hard for this win.
A birdie on the second hole put Kerr two shots ahead of Feng. The defending champion from China had been in contention throughout the event. She went 62 holes without making a bogey and took the lead back on Sunday when Kerr found some trouble in a hazard on the seventh hole.
Other players, including Kang (who closed with a 66), Nelly Korda (65), In Gee Chun (66) and Concolino (67), continued to make birdies and move up the leaderboard. Soon, Kerr had a lot more to worry about than just Feng.
Neither Kerr nor Feng were getting many particularly good breaks. Feng found a hazard on the ninth, Kerr three-putted 17 for a bogey, and there was a weather delay that halted play for more than an hour. As they teed it up on the 18th, they were tied at 14-under. Concolino and Kang were already finished at 14-under.
Both Kerr and Feng hit the green in regulation, and had long putts for the win. Kerr made hers, and Feng missed, giving her runner-up honours in the event for the third time in the past five years to go with wins in 2014 and 2016.
Sarah Jane Smith finished as the leading Australian, closing with a one-under 70 to share 13th place at 10-under.
To make the victory all the more meaningful, Kerr, a two-time winner in 2017, is donating a portion of her winnings to breast-cancer research.
After the points are calculated, Kerr is projected to move up from seventh to fifth in the Race to CME Globe. It’s a significant gain, because if a player who is ranked in the top-five at the beginning of the CME Group Tour Championship wins the season finale, she will also win $US1 million CME Globe year-long bonus. The Tour Championship will take place from November 16-19 in Naples, Florida.