Paula Creamer's game came alive
Paula Creamer: 2010
Paula Creamer's favorite color is pink, right? Well, that certainly is the hue the Pink Panther is known for. But it might actually come in fourth place, after a three-way tie for first.
"We've been asked many years now, 'Where are the Americans?' We're here," said Creamer, who's had to answer countless questions about the U.S. players' performance on the LPGA Tour in her career. "And there are a lot of great juniors coming through the ranks, as well. You see a lot of hope for us.
"It's just [about] getting the job done. There are so many great players, which makes it exciting. But we want to see that red, white and blue on the leaderboard."
The last time the colors of the United States flag finished on top at the U.S. Women's Open was in 2010, when Creamer won at Oakmont in Pennsylvania. She has 10 LPGA victories, but that is her lone major.
Creamer's best season on the LPGA Tour was 2008, when she won four times. But in 2009, she sustained a thumb injury that lingered into 2010 and proved to be more serious than first thought. She had surgery on it that March.
The U.S. Women's Open in July 2010 was her fourth event after the operation, and she wasn't expecting much.
"Sometimes that can help you, actually," said her longtime caddie, Colin Cann, who previously worked with Annika Sorenstam. "The U.S. Open is more a mental thing; I was lucky enough to also win a couple with Annika.
"It's about controlling your emotions, accepting things and carrying on. Not making it bigger than what it is. Paula handled herself great that week. Her game was good and her mind was good."
Creamer was consistently strong all tournament. She took over the lead after the second round and held on from there. She shot a final-round 69 and won by 4 shots.
Creamer subsequently played well over the next few years but couldn't quite find her way back to an LPGA victory. The most agonizing loss was in 2012, when she fell in a nine-hole playoff to Jiyai Shin at the Kingsmill Championship. Then, in 2013, she had six top-10s and was part of the losing U.S. Solheim Cup team.
Still, Creamer thought she was on the verge of winning again, and it came in dramatic fashion. In March, on the second playoff hole at the HSBC Women's Champions tournament in Singapore, she sank a 75-foot putt for eagle.
"It's something I will never forget, probably one of the best shots I've ever made," Creamer said. "It was a big relief."
Creamer comes into this year's U.S. Women's Open with two other top-10 finishes, but both of those preceded her victory in March. If there's a time when her game might really come alive, it's at this major. Besides her 2010 victory, she's had four other top-10 finishes at the U.S. Women's Open in the past six years. She tied for fourth in 2013.
Creamer is from a family with a lot of military ties, and she's engaged to an Air Force pilot. To her, patriotism factors into winning the U.S. Women's Open.
"It's our national championship, and we all put an extreme amount of pressure on ourselves going into that week," Creamer said of the Americans' mindset. "We want it so bad. I've played in it many years now, and I know what that pressure's like when it gets to you in the wrong way. But it can also help you win.
"Playing in the U.S. Open is so awesome. The people love it, and we're playing great golf courses. The best players usually rise to the top that week because it is such a test and a grind. You have to have such a strong mental game, and that's why it's the toughest tournament of the year."