The Pink Panter is on the prowl.
While the LPGA tour has been dominated lately by foreign superstars, the pride of the Red, White and Blue appears to be in the mix after the first round of the Women’s U.S. Open.
21-year old Paula Creamer has already won twice this season, but her success has been completely overshadowed by the domination of Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa and Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam’s announcement of her retirement at the end of this season.
Creamer has won six times professionally and it is easy to see why, she is one of the top ball strikers on the tour. Creamer can hit it far, a rather important ability on the longest course in U.S. Women’s Open history, but she can also hit it straight.
Creamer rarely hits wayward shots and today she kept the ball in play hitting 11 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens.
Her only two bad shots came at the end of both nines resulting in her two bogeys on the round. Still in a U.S. Open, bogeys come with the territory and ranking fourth in birdies this year on tour, Creamer can erase blemishes quickly.
Certainly, Creamer has the ability from tee to green to compete week in and week out. She has shown the game to master every club in her bag…well, except one.
The reason we talk about Ochoa and Sorenstam instead of this young and beautiful phenom is because Creamer has struggled on the greens. Creamer is 4th on tour in greens in regulation, but 76th on tour in putts per round.
That means, even though Creamer does make her fair share of birdies and eagles, she has many more opportunities that she has squandered.
It is the reason why Creamer comes into Minnesota seeking her first major. Even though she is only 21, she admits she is beginning to feel the pressure. Just a few years ago she was lumped together with other young American phenoms like Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel.
Pressel was the first of the trio to pick up a major last year when Suzann Pettersen collapsed on the back nine to hand the Kraft Nabisco to her.
Wie, on the other hand, has fallen off the map after a wrist injury and questionable decisions have led her to question everything about her game.
Well today the spotlight was on Creamer.
The Pink Panther, so named for her usual adornment of a pink in every fashion choice she makes, entered the round with an unusual amount of focus and intensity. Perhaps it was being paired with the world’s second and third ranked golfers but Creamer looked like she wanted to make a statement and did it.
Creamer beat her playing opponents by five (Sorenstam) and seven (Pettersen) shots respectively. Since the women have a combined eleven majors between them, a performance like that is worth a boost of confidence.
Most importantly, she was able to control the wild speed variations of the Interlachen greens, avoiding any three-putts and putting herself just three shots out of the lead held by 19-year old Ji Young Oh and veteran Pat Hurst.
The old saying goes you can’t win a major on Thursday but you can lose it. Wie proved the latter theory true by scoring a nine on the par-four ninth en route to an 81.
Creamer hopes to just prove that she can be the fifth American in the last seven years to win the U.S. Open.