Creamer wins her first ca­reer ma­jor at U.S. Open

Pink Pan­ther goes 3-un­der over­all to top Choi by 4 shots

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Alan Robin­son

OAK­MONT, Pa. — Paula Creamer won­dered a few months ago when she would ever play golf again. Her in­jured left thumb hurt that badly.

What she couldn’t have pos­si­bly guessed is she would play like this.

Creamer shed the ti­tle of the best women’s golfer to not win a ma­jor, never wa­ver­ing dur­ing a four-shot vic­tory Sun­day at the U.S. Women’s Open in which she steadily put away a field that couldn’t match her con­fi­dence or con­sis­tency.

Creamer started with a three-stroke lead, then never let it go be­low two shots dur­ing a 2-un­der 69 that gave her a 3-un­der 281 for the tour­na­ment.

Na Yeon Choi of South Korea shot a 5-un­der 66 at a soft­ened-up Oak­mont Coun­try Club to tie Suzann Pet­tersen of Nor­way for sec­ond place at 1-over 285.

“That ques­tion al­ways lurked: ‘How come you never won a ma­jor?’” said Creamer, who had the thumb sur­gi­cally re­paired in March but has been slow get­ting back. “Now we never have to get asked that ques­tion again. It’s kind of a big re­lief off my shoul­ders.”

Most of all, a big re­lief off a hy­per­ex­tended left thumb she es­ti­mates is only 60 per­cent healed.

Limited to 40 prac­tice shots be­fore each round to lessen the pounding on the thumb, Creamer found the best pos­si­ble way to limit the dis­com­fort: take as few strokes as pos­si­ble.

The 23-year-old Creamer, known as the Pink Pan­ther for her all-pink at­tire, faded badly in the late rounds of the last two Women’s Opens, and she missed the cut at last week’s Jamie Farr Clas­sic won by Choi. But she was strong at Oak­mont, with ear­lier rounds of 72, 70 and 70.

“I was in pain, but I was try­ing to do ev­ery­thing to not think about it,” Creamer said. “It shows you how much the mental side of golf can re­ally take over.”

With Creamer’s lead briefly down to two strokes, her two biggest con­fi­dence-build­ing shots of the day might have been long, par-sav­ing putts on No. 7 and 8 — even as Choi was charg­ing with the tour­na­ment’s sec­ond-best round. Song-Hee Kim had a 65 Sun­day and fin­ished 13th.

Creamer, from Pleasan­ton, Calif., had four birdies and two bo­geys, all but wrap­ping it up by hit­ting to within 10 feet out of the thick rough on the par-4 14th and drop­ping the putt for birdie. Only she didn’t know for sure; she said she never looked at a leader­board un­til the 18th.

“With­out a doubt, I’ve ma­tured a lot since the in­jury,’’ she said. “I know how to han­dle ad­ver­sity bet­ter.’’

Top-ranked Cristi Kerr, who won the LPGA Cham­pi­onship two weeks ago, tied for 17th.

Creamer is the 12th first­time win­ner among the last 15 ma­jors.

Be­fore Kerr and Creamer came through, U.S. women had won only 8 of the pre­vi­ous 39 ma­jors.

Gene J. Puskar

Paula Creamer re­acts af­ter win­ning the U.S. Women’s Open at Oak­mont Coun­try Club on Sun­day. Her first ma­jor win came af­ter a fi­nal-round, 2-un­der 69 gave her a 3-un­der 281 for the tour­na­ment.

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