Cristie Kerr brings her views to TV at Honda Classic

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FILE – In this April 4, 2019, file photo, Cristie Kerr reacts to her approach shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the LPGA Tour ANA Inspiration golf tournament at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Kerr will be part of Golf Channel’s broadcast team at the Honda Classic this week. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

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Cristie Kerr returns to action this week on the golf course without her clubs: Golf Channel is using the 20-time LPGA Tour winner for the Honda Classic.

This is more dipping toes in the water instead of a plunge.

“I struck up a friendship with Golf Channel recently thinking that I’m going to get into broadcasting, but I don’t know when that is,” Kerr said. “I’ve never had a problem talking, to be honest. There’s not a lot of things you can put your skill set to use at.”

This will be her third appearance with Golf Channel. She was in the Orlando, Florida, studio during the Sony Open last year, and she was in the booth with Judy Rankin and on the ground with Jerry Foltz in November for the LPGA Tour’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

A break in the schedule made the Honda Classic work. The LPGA Tour is off for a month because three Asia events were canceled because of the viral outbreak that began in China, though Kerr would not have been eligible for them, anyway.

“I thought about when it was good to work it into the schedule when it wouldn’t impact my playing schedule,” she said. “I’d like to try to work thing in a couple of times a year so I didn’t have to start from scratch.”

Kerr, who is about $165,000 away from becoming the third LPGA Tour player to crack $20 million in career earnings, finished 80th on the money list last year. She had not finished that low since her rookie season in 1997, which she attributed in part to adjusting with a growing family — Griffin, her second son, was born in August 2018, and she continues to develop her burgeoning Kerr Cellars wine business.

So why not explore more TV opportunities?

“At the end of last year, when a lot of things came to a close, I started anew. The time off made me realize how much I love golf and how much I want to win,” Kerr said. “I could have said, ‘Oh, I’m just done,’ and moved into broadcasting. But it had the opposite effect.”

The Honda Classic is at PGA National, where Kerr won the Girls Junior PGA Championship in 1995.

Kerr has never had a problem speaking her mind, sometimes without a filter. She admired Johnny Miller, saying he has “an air of confidence that few people have.”

Rankin was a ground reporter for ABC at World Golf Championships and other events through the mid-2000s. Dottie Pepper is with CBS, which broadcasts the majority of PGA Tour events. Similarly, Kerr will be reporting on the men.

“Dottie has been doing a great job,” Kerr said. “She’s gritty, and she’s got a lot of salient points.”

As for Kerr? She hopes to have a filter until she finds her footing.

“I’m not putting myself out there until I know what the right and wrong things are,” she said. “But I’ll still have a point of view.”

TIGER’S MENU

Tiger Woods is sticking to his roots — California — and his history at Augusta National for the Champions Dinner the Tuesday before the Masters.

The Masters champion gets to choose the menu for the dinner of past champions and club chairman Fred Ridley.

Woods said Tuesday that fajitas and sushi were “part of my entire childhood” growing up in Orange County. Besides, that’s what he served in 2006 after his previous Masters victory.

“So we’ll have steak and chicken fajitas, and we’ll have sushi and sashimi out on the deck,” he said.

As for dessert? He thought back to his first time as Masters Club host.

“I’m debating whether or not to have milkshakes as dessert because that was one of the great memories to see Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead having milkshakes that night in ’98,” he said.

ISHIKAWA FUTURE

Ryo Ishikawa won three times on the Japan Golf Tour to earn a spot in the Mexico Championship, and he felt he lost an opportunity when he shot 43 on his opening nine and never recovered.

Ishikawa’s goals are to get back to America and to try to earn one of two spots for Japan in the Olympics, and both are lofty. The bad start led to 68th place and no world ranking points. He slipped to No. 87 in the world.

“I completely lost concentration that first nine holes,” Ishikawa said. “Maybe I was nervous playing with top players in the world (Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen).”

He gets another chance at the Honda Classic, which gave him a sponsor exemption. Otherwise, he says he will contemplate trying for the Korn Ferry Tour.

“I always want to come back to the U.S. and PGA Tour, and Korn Ferry Tour, as well,” he said. “I need to go step by step. Playing on the PGA Tour isn’t everything, so maybe to go to try the Korn Ferry the next few years. Because looking at other players, they’re playing good and there’s always a reason. It’s different between my golf and their golf.”

TRAVELING MAN

Zach Murray won his first pro tournament a year ago this week at the New Zealand Open, and he looked forward to defending his title. He just didn’t realize then how much travel would be involved for the 22-year-old Australian.

That victory propelled him to No. 2 on the Order of Merit on the PGA Tour of Australasia to earn a European Tour card. It also got him into his first World Golf Championships in Mexico City — the week before the New Zealand Open.

He couldn’t leave Mexico until Monday afternoon, an itinerary that takes him to Los Angeles, then Auckland and over to Queenstown. He was due to land about lunchtime on Wednesday, and then tee it up on Thursday.

“No pro-am, no practice rounds,” Murray said. “But at least I know the courses.”

The last 18 months have seemed like a blur. Murray was all square with Cole Hammer in the fourth round of the 2018 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach until the Texan pulled away. He won the WA Open Championship as an amateur, turned pro and won the New Zealand Open seven starts later.

Last week, he found himself hitting balls next to Rory McIlroy, too shy to introduce himself.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Murray said. “I had some goals to play well. But the best way for me to play my best is just go out there and play. You have to learn how to get your mind to do that, and it’s difficult to do. But I’ve learned so much the last few years. Eighteen months ago, I was playing the U.S. Amateur. Things change quickly.”

DIVOTS

Morgan Hoffmann has been selected to receive the PGA Tour Courage Award. Hoffman was diagnosed in 2016 with a form of muscular dystrophy. The award is for players who overcome extraordinary adversity, such as injury or illness, to make significant contributions to the game. Previous winners were Gene Sauers (2017), the late Jarrod Lyle (2015) and Erik Compton (2013) … Charles Howell III went over $1 million for the 20th consecutive PGA Tour season. Only Phil Mickelson at 24 has more consecutive seasons at $1 million or more. … The R&A has rescheduled the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific to Oct. 7-10 in Thailand. It was postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak. … The Mexico Championship had two Mexican players for the first time, and both finished in the top 20. Abraham Ancer tied for 12th and Carlos Ortiz tied for 16th.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Sunday in Mexico City was the 10th time in 13 rounds after the cut this season that Jordan Spieth started on the back nine.

FINAL WORD

“We’re gamers, just like the men. We just don’t hit it as far or make as much money.” — Cristie Kerr.

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