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Creamer conquers pain, first major

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Associated Press
July 12, 2010
— Paula Creamer flinched in pain as shot after shot punished a left thumb that hurts so badly she could not play for four months. Somehow, the worse she felt, the better she played.

Creamer shed the title of being the best women’s golfer to not win a major, never wavering during a four-shot victory Sunday in the U.S. Women’s Open and putting away a field that couldn’t match her confidence or steadiness.


Creamer made it look easy after beginning the final round with a three-stroke lead that never dipped below two shots, finishing the tournament with a 3-under 281. Na Yeon Choi of South Korea shot a 5-under 66 to tie Suzann Pettersen of Norway for second place at 1-over 285.


It wasn’t easy. Not even close.


Limited to 40 practice shots before each round by a still-healing hyperextended left thumb that required surgery in February, the 23-year-old Creamer found the best possible way to limit the pounding on her hand: take as few strokes as possible.


Creamer, known as the Pink Panther for all-pink attire, ended with a 2-under 69, far better than the 75 she averaged during previous Women’s Open final rounds. She faded badly near the finish the last two years, and she missed the cut at last week’s Jamie Farr Classic won by Choi. But this time she was as strong as her thumb is weak.


It had to be; she punished that thumb by playing 52 holes during the final two days, 23 on Sunday, because of Friday’s rain suspension.


“I was in pain, but I was trying to do everything to not think about it,” Creamer said.


Lifting the silver trophy that goes to the winner? That was easy, too.


Her lead briefly down to two strokes after four holes, 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 on Sunday and finished 13th.


Creamer played only her fourth tournament since that operation forced mechanical changes in her game because her right side is much stronger than her left. After playing 29 holes Saturday, she feared unwrapping her throbbing thumb because “it might explode.”


Her game certainly didn’t, as she won for the ninth time on the LPGA Tour.


Alexis Thompson, the 15-year-old Floridian, trailed by five before taking a double bogey on No. 1. She was the second-longest hitter during her fourth Women’s Open, but was held back by a series of three-putts while tying for 10th.



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