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McPherson finds fun, success in Arkansas

Kristy McPherson gestures to the crowd after sinking a putt for par on the third green during the final round of the P&G Beauty Northwest Arkansas Championship golf tournament in Rogers, Ark., Sunday, July 6, 2008.
Kristy McPherson gestures to the crowd after sinking a putt for par on the third green during the final round of the P&G Beauty Northwest Arkansas Championship golf tournament in Rogers, Ark., Sunday, July 6, 2008.

Former USC golfer Kristy McPherson liked being at the center of attention.

She recorded the first top-five finish of her LPGA Tour career on Sunday.

“I had a good week. I played solid golf,” McPherson said. “I’m still a little frustrated. I could have saved a couple (strokes) there at the end. But it was a fun week.

“It’s a good learning experience and I think I’ll take a lot from it.”

McPherson grabbed the lead early in the final round of the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Ark., and held at least a share of it through 13 holes.

But a double bogey on the par-5 14th dropped her off the lead, and she was unable to make up shots down the stretch.

McPherson settled for a tie for fourth with a 13-under-par 203, two shots behind winner Seon Hwa Lee of South Korea.

“I played pretty good most of the day, just had one bad hole and it got me,” McPherson said.

McPherson was in or near the lead from her opening-round 64, and closed with a 2-under 70 Sunday.

She birdied her first two holes to quickly take the final-round lead and added birdies on the par-5 seventh and par-3 11th to reach 15-under par. Her card was unblemished other than the double on 14, where she found a front bunker with her third shot, blasted out over the green and into rough, chipped to 12 feet and two-putted for a 7.

“I didn’t play poorly there. One bad swing cost me a couple strokes,” McPherson said.

McPherson earned $65,508 to move up to 50th on the money list with $193,949, one year after making less than $80,000 in official earnings as a rookie. She did, however, collect $60,000 in unofficial earnings after she shot a 66 in the first round of the NW Arkansas event last year. She tied for the low professional when the event was shortened to one round due to weather and unplayable course conditions.

McPherson won seven college events at South Carolina and two Futures Tour events in four years on the LPGA’s developmental tour. Her previous best finish on the LPGA was seventh in April’s Corona Championship in Mexico, which is her only other top-10. She said the pressure of the moment was not to blame for her hiccup on the 14th.

“I never got nervous, I just wanted to make birdies,” McPherson said. “I was kind of surprised. I thought I might be a little nervous, but I never was. I birdied the first hole, and after that, I was ready to go.”

McPherson had all facets of her game working at Pinnacle Country Club, including her putter. She took just 79 putts in 54 holes while using a belly putter for the first time in two months.

She began using a belly putter in the NW Arkansas event last year and stayed with it through the SemGroup Championship in Oklahoma in early May. She struggled there with her speed in wind on undulating greens and resorted to a conventional putter until this week.

“It was a good call,” McPherson said. “I putted well all week.”

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