Carlsbad, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Cristie Kerr fired a 7-under 65 in Sunday's final round to rally and win the Kia Classic by two strokes.
Kerr finished at 20-under-par 268. This was her 17th LPGA Tour title and first since 2013. Her total of 268 smashed the previous tournament record of 274. Yani Tseng set the old mark in 2012.
"My caddie's father passed away last week and he wasn't with me in Phoenix. I played for the both of us this week and I said I was going to do it, and I did it, and it made it that much more special for us, as our first win together and my son being there and my family too," said Kerr through tears.
"Golf has always be great to me and given me special moments like this and I'm grateful for it, and that's why I play the game."
Third-round leader Mirim Lee carded a costly double-bogey at the 17th en route to closing a 2-under 70. She ended alone in second place at minus-18.
World No. 1 Lydia Ko continued her run of under-par rounds, but failed to win. Ko carded her second straight 67 to grab third place at 17-under-par 271. That was her 28th consecutive under-par round.
"I just wasn't hitting it as close, but I holed a couple of good putts and when I had the chance, I kind of took it," said Ko. "Last three holes were a little iffy, like yesterday, but 67 around here is good and I've improved my placing compared to last year, so a lot of positives to take from this week."
Alison Lee (71) finished in fourth at minus-16, while world No. 2 Inbee Park (67) was one stroke back at 15-under 273 at Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club. Ha Na Jang (68) and Hyo Joo Kim (66) tied for sixth place at minus-14.
Kerr started the day three strokes off the lead. She opened with four pars in a row before catching fire. Back-to-back birdies five and six gave Kerr a share of the lead.
The 37-year-old also birdied the seventh, but remained tied atop the leaderboard with Ko, who birdied No. 8 to move to 16-under.
Ko converted her fourth birdie in five holes at the ninth to move in front at minus-17. Kerr responded with birdies at nine and 10 to grab the lead.
Kerr tripped to a bogey at the 12th and that created a 3-way tie with Ko and Mirim Lee. Lee opened with a bogey at the first and double-bogey at the second. She birdied four of the next seven holes to climb to 17-under.
Ko birdied the 14th to grab the lead, but that was her final birdie. Kerr joined Ko at minus-18 with a birdie on No. 13.
Kerr drained a 12-foot birdie try at 14 and made it three in a row as her 6- foot birdie effort at 15 found the bottom of the cup. Kerr 2-putted for birdie at the short par-4 16th to move to 21-under, where she led by three.
Mirim Lee birdied the 13th, then knocked in a 3-footer for eagle at 16 to jump within one of Kerr. As Kerr was playing the 18th, Lee was making a mess of the 17th.
Lee's drive sailed way right and she had to chop her second back to the rough. She missed the green with her third en route to making a double-bogey.
Kerr had a long birdie putt at 18, and didn't know she was three ahead. She 3- putted for bogey, but it was enough for the win as Lee failed to hole her second shot at the last.
NOTES: Kerr collected $255,000 for the win ... She was not only the first American winner in event history, she was also the first American winner this season on the LPGA Tour ... Kerr has at least one win in 11 of her 18 LPGA Tour seasons ... The tour heads to Rancho Mirage, California next week for the first major of the season. Lexi Thompson will defend her title at the newly- named ANA Inspiration.