Golf: Kerr back to defend Ochoa Invitational title

GUADALAJARA, Mexico (AFP) - Cristie Kerr defends her title at this week's Lorena Ochoa Invitational, the penultimate event of the 2013 LPGA season.

Kerr erased a two-stroke final round deficit to beat current world number one Park In-Bee of South Korea at Guadalajara Country Club last year.

Kerr has already won one title this season, at the Kingsmill Championship in May.

She said this week's event, hosted by former world number one Lorena Ochoa, is one of the tour's more restful stops and a perfect build up to the season-ending Titleholders, which features players who have earned top-three finishes during the season.

"It's always a relaxing atmosphere," Kerr said of a tournament that this year features 36 players vying for a US$150,000 (S$187,342) first prize from a purse of US$1 million.

"Everybody always hangs out in the clubhouse after their round and has great Mexican food and margaritas. It's just a lot of fun." Despite the laid-back atmosphere, there is still plenty at stake for the LPGA's top players.

It has come down to a two-woman race for Player of the Year honors, with Park holding a 38-point lead over Norway's Suzann Pettersen.

Pettersen, who has come on strong in the final half of the season, can keep the race alive if she finishes third or better this week, depending on where Park finishes.

A runner-up finish for Park would mean the South Korean star could finish no worse than a tie for first in the Player of the Year race.

Park is also in front of Pettersen in the money list with US$2,335,460 thanks to a season that has included six victories.

Pettersen is second with US$2,241,847 in winnings.

It's only the second time in LPGA Tour history that two players have earned US$2 million in one season. In 2006, both Ochoa and Australian Karrie Webb topped US$2 million.

American Stacy Lewis comes into the tournament leading the chase for the Vare Trophy for the player with the lowest scoring average, with both Pettersen and Park still in with a chance of catching her.