ORLANDO - A year ago, in the final round of the LPGA Tour Championship at Grand Cypress, Cristie Kerr put too much pressure on herself and didn't play well, coming up short to Maria Hjorth in the event and to Yani Tseng and Na Yeon Choi for season honors.
Thursday at Grand Cypress, Kerr, battling an intestinal bug she thinks she picked up while in Mexico for the Lorena Ochoa Invitational last week, didn't have any such expectations. The formula worked, as Kerr shot a four-under 68, good for T-4, two shots behind Choi's first-round lead the CME Group Titleholders.
"I was in bed all day yesterday, and even still today I feel fatigued," said Kerr, whose illness prevented her from playing in Wednesday's pro-am. "I felt kind of light-headed around the turn. I still had some of these shooting pains in my abdomen. I didn't expect much for myself. Maybe that's what it takes."
Kerr, 34, needs a victory to extend the longest winning streak on the LPGA Tour -- the 14-time winner has a victory every season from 2004-2010. She has come teasingly close often in 2011, amassing nine top-four finishes, including runner-up three times. "It's felt like a bit of bad luck. Some of the tournaments where I came in second I played awesome, but somebody played better."
She also had to deal with tendinitis in her right wrist, which forced her out of singles play at the Solheim Cup. "It's frustrating," Kerr said. "I've never had to deal with trying to pay attention to an injury like that. And then getting sick here, it's the way the year has gone. But maybe somebody will smile on me this week."
Kerr is part of a cadre of big-name American women, including Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie, who haven't won in a season dominated by Yani Tseng's seven victories. Pressel also did her part in getting into position Thursday, shooting a 67 to share second place with Karrie Webb.
"We've had a couple of other young American stars who have stepped up," Pressel said. "Brittany Lincicome won a couple times. Stacy Lewis won her first major. The rest of us have been close, but we haven't been able to get it done. We've got one event left, and we'll see what happens next year. Maybe we'll come out firing next year."
-- Bill Fields
Follow on Twitter: @BillFields1