Creamer wins her first career major at U.S. Open
Pink Panther goes 3-under overall to top Choi by 4 shots
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.
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.