Cristie Kerr hadn’t played at Highland Meadows for a few years. She said it was “great to be back … a great golf town.”
Still, she might think twice about returning.
Kerr simply can’t figure out the last two holes at the site of the Marathon Classic.
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The finishing holes are back-to-back par 5s, birdie holes, and they have produced some dramatic turns of events through the past 25 years.
Kerr, who finished alone in third place Sunday, three shots behind champion Lydia Ko, produced one birdie, two bogeys, and five pars on those two finishing holes during the four rounds.
She knew that was not good enough.
“I didn’t play 17 and 18 well all week,” Kerr said. “If you’re going to win here you have to take advantage of those holes. I didn’t hit a good putt on 17 today. [At 18] just hit a bad 3-wood. I just kind of left a lot of shots out there this week.
“Historically, I think I haven’t played the last two holes well here for some reason.”
The richest American player in LPGA history with more than $16.2 million in career earnings, Kerr carded four rounds of 70 or under and was 12-under for the tournament.
Nos. 17 and 18 killed her title bid.
RACE WINNER: Paula Creamer could pinpoint her biggest accomplishment at the Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I to when she beat Lexi Thompson and Angela Stanford in a race to the 14th hole, a staple of one of the more boisterous holes.
The rest of the weekend might as well have been a competitive wash. Creamer, who won the 2008 tournament, was one of the last golfers to make the cut Friday and continued to struggle in the final two days.
She was blunt in her assessment of her performance.
“I just did not play well,” said Creamer, who entered the tournament at No. 12 in the Rolex Rankings. “Pretty much the only thing I did well was that race on the par-3 [on Friday on the 14th hole]. Other than that, that’s not saying much.
“I either play awesome here or I don’t. I don’t really understand my results here the past couple years.”
Creamer finished at 1-over par 285, and shot a 1-over 72 in Sunday’s final round. She opened the round by double-bogeying the first hole but birdied the third hole.
“I had a bunch of things I wanted to do today,” Creamer said. “It’s a good day, a good weekend to try and do things you’ve been working on and try to put them in competition mode when you know you’re not right up in contention.
“I was trying to make as many birdies as I could and I only made one today. There’s no way I’m going to contend with that out here.”
TAMULIS CRACKS TOP 10: Kris Tamulis walked off the 18th green with a final score of 10-under 274, which placed her in a five-way tie for seventh. The Michigan native and Detroit Lions fan, who wore a Honalulu blue shirt for the final round, was pleased about her finish.
"I really hit it good, but I probably didn't putt as well as I did yesterday," said Tamulis, who shot a final round score of 68. "But I only had one bogey and that was just because I mis-clubbed myself and I kind of left myself with a really hard chip and a difficult putt on 12.
"But I'm really proud of myself. I played really good."
Her previous best finish at Highland Meadows was tied for 10th in 2010.
KIRK KEEPS CONSISTENT: After opening the tournament with a round of 69, Katherine Kirk proved plenty steady with her scoring over the final three rounds. She posted her third straight round of 68 on Sunday and finished in a three-way tie for fourth with a score of 11-under 273.
"I didn't probably hit it as well as I could have, but, again, I putted well," Kirk said, who earned $59,015 for her four-day performance. "I knew it would take a low one to win it and I didn't quite have a low enough one, but I'm really happy with the way I played."
The Austrailian recorded five birdies and bogeyed twice during the final round.
"When you know that there are a lot of birdies out there you kind of have to be aggressive, but at the same time you have to be smart," Kirk said.
"I didn't really change my gameplan a whole lot today. I tried to give myself as many chances as possible, but I just didn't hit it close enough and I needed a few more birdies."
HEDWALL STRUGGLES: Caroline Hedwall was among a large group that went into the final round chasing the leaders by four strokes.
A pair of double-bogeys and three bogeys during the final round resulted in her finishing with a final-round score of 73, which was her worst round of the tournament.
She posted rounds of 69, 68, and 69 before Sunday.
Nonetheless, Hedwall was one of 10 tied for 32nd place and taking home $8,491.
"I got off to a good start, I was 2-under after three," Hedwall said. "But I kind of had a bad break on No. 4, ending up by a tree, so you can't really do anything about that.
"I tried. I did my best, but it just wasn't enough."
CLOSE, NO CIGAR: Katie Bennett had one eagle, holing her approach shot to No. 4, and almost closed with another, but a lousy start meant she could do no better than a 1-over 72 Sunday.
Bennett came close to joining an exclusive club at 18, where big hitters like Laura Davies and Michelle McGann have been among very few through the years to hit the green at the 532-yard, par-5 finishing hole.
How close did Bennett come?
“About that,” she said, holding her fingers two inches apart.
The 5-foot-4 second-year LPGA pro said she is “about average” in distance.
“I took an aggressive line off the tee with my driver and it took a great line and bounced up into the walkway,” she said.
“I had 250 left to the middle and I figured if I hit it square I had a shot. I came close and the putt was tracking all the way until it just stopped inches short.”
Bennett, who finished at 4-under for the tournament, was fighting back all day after a bogey-double bogey-bogey start before her eagle at No. 4.
STILL GRINDING: Defending champion Beatriz Recari came to the last hole at even par for the day and minus-5 for the tournament. In other words, she was out of contention for a second straight Marathon title.
You wouldn’t have known it to watch.
She paced off the distance between her ball and the flag, hit a decent chip, and then drained the birdie putt to finish at 6-under.
“I want to give my best any time, whether I’m 10-under or 10-over,” Recari said. “I wanted to step it off and get a good distance. Then the putt, well, I had that on Sunday a year ago, too. I knew it was right to left.”
Recari said she enjoyed the week at Highland Meadows and pointed out she was under par every round.
“The difference from last year was I didn’t make as many putts,” she said.
There are only a handful of Spanish players on the LPGA Tour, so the Recari-Belen Mozo pairing was a bit unusual. Friends since their junior golf days, both will represent their country later this week in the International Crown team event in Maryland.
“It doesn’t happen very often, so it was great to play with Belen,” Recari said. “I’m looking forward to maybe playing with her again next week.”
LEWIS HAS ROUGH HOMECOMING: Stacy Lewis entered the tournament at No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings, but she left Sylvania without another trophy from Highland Meadows.
Lewis, who was born in Toledo but moved to Texas at age 2, finished with a 278 and completed her final round with a 1-under 70.
She has only one top-10 finish in seven tournaments at Highland Meadows, including one as an amateur.
“There’s just some golf courses you never seem to figure out,” Lewis said. “I don’t know if this is one of them or what it is. Over the years, I just haven’t really gotten going on this course. I’ve never made a lot of birdies, so I don’t know what the deal is.”
Lewis birdied the 17th hole Sunday, and her fourth round was a vast improvement over the previous three days when she had six bogeys.
LATE START: Fog blanketed Highland Meadows on Sunday morning and delayed the start of the fourth round by exactly one hour. The co-leaders entering the round, and playing in the last twosome, Laura Diaz and Lee-Anne Pace were scheduled to start at 12:55 but instead teed off at 1:55.
That set the TV window of 3-5 p.m. back, as well, and Golf Channel extended its coverage until Lydia Ko’s title was decided by a missed birdie putt by her final challenger, So Yeon Ryu, at about 5:40 p.m.