Thursday, July 09, 2009

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) — Paula Creamer has taken two anti-inflammatory injections in her ailing left thumb. Now, she wants another shot - at a U.S. Women's Open title.

One year after stumbling at the start of the final round of the women's national championship and finishing sixth, Creamer is back on course to chase her first Open title.

But Creamer's been through a tough couple of weeks after pulling out of an LPGA event in Pittsford, N.Y., two weeks ago because of a thumb injury. Last week, she withdrew from a tournament in Ohio when her thumb swelled up after she hit balls on the range before the first round.

She doesn't claim to be pain free, just feeling better.

"I've played a lot of golf the last couple days ... A lot of ice and Advil are my two favorite things right now," the eight-time LPGA Tour winner said Wednesday on the eve of the first round.

Creamer will be paired with top-ranked Lorena Ochoa and South Korea's In-Kyung Kim in the opening round at Saucon Valley Country Club in a Women's Open that threatens to be overshadowed by a lingering dispute among a faction of key LPGA players who are calling for the resignation of tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens.

Golfweek Magazine first reported Monday that a group of key players sent a letter to the LPGA board saying the tour's woes can't be blamed on a poor economy and that the LPGA needs a new leader to rebuild relationships with sponsors.

The tour has lost seven tournaments since 2007.

Most players are declining to talk about the issue, but Ochoa participated in the players' meeting that spawned the letter and addressed the controversy Wednesday.

Ochoa said the players are looking for a more active role in moving the LPGA Tour ahead.

"We as players, we want to be more involved in what is happening and we want to see the tour going in a better direction," said Ochoa, whose best finish in a Women's Open was a tie for second in 2007.

"There's not much we can do. I believe they will do the best for us, and hopefully things will start, you know, moving in a good direction, because we are worried that we're losing tournaments and we want to get back on a good track."

Creamer sidestepped the issue, saying she's concerned only about tour events. She refused to comment further, saying it is "out of my control."

Control is something Creamer struggled with in the final round last year but hopes to maintain at Saucon Valley.

Last year, she entered the last round in second place but had two double bogeys in a front-nine 41. She went on to shoot 78 and finished five places back of eventual winner Inbee Park.

Saucon Valley will be a tough test with its narrow fairways and undulating greens, playing more than 6,700 yards to a par 71.

Creamer is gaining confidence with every ball she strikes.

"Obviously, I wish I was a little bit more prepared to come into the U.S. Open, but it's what I've been given," she said. "I feel Monday and Tuesday I was a little rusty; I hit some shots that I haven't really hit before.

"But I feel good now. I've hit some balls and got that out of my system."

She's also feeling very comfortable with the pristine Lehigh Valley layout.

"When I think of U.S. Open, definitely this course defines that," she said. "It's tight; there's not many birdie opportunities that you can make out there."

Creamer expects to feel some nervousness and will lean on the lessons she learned last year from her first top-10 finish in a major.

"I've learned a lot from that round," she said. "It's going to be difficult, I've learned that. ... Hopefully I can take what happened at the Open last year into this one.

The Women's Open field includes 28 amateurs and players from 22 countries. The youngest player is 13-year-old Yueer-Cindy-Feng of Orlando, and reigning U.S. Girls Junior champ Alexis Thompson, 14, who in 2007 was the youngest Women's Open qualifier in history, is back for her third open.

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