WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Paula Creamer has played well enough this week to have a chance of winning the LPGA Tour’s money title.
That is, if she can get out of the hospital Sunday morning.
Hours after becoming one of eight qualifiers for the final round of the ADT Championship and its $1 million first-place prize Saturday, Creamer – who has been sick since Wednesday night – was admitted to Bethesda Memorial Hospital in Boynton Beach because of severe abdominal distress.
She will stay there overnight, and “a decision as to whether or not she plays (Sunday’s) round will be made early (Sunday) morning,” said Jay Burton, the senior vice president of IMG, which represents Creamer.
Creamer said after her round Saturday that she was planning to play, but wanted to go have a CT scan to rule out appendicitis, something many of her symptoms pointed to, according to the medical staff who evaluated her at the Trump International course.
“If I was going to withdraw, it would have been earlier,” Creamer said.
Provided she can play, Creamer will have a chance to be the first American to win the LPGA’s season money crown in 15 years. All eight players will start tied at par when they embark on an 18-hole shootout for the $1 million winner’s prize, and if Creamer cannot play, it’ll be a seven-woman field.
“Money title or not, I want to win this event,” Creamer said.
She began experiencing sharp stomach pains Wednesday night and they haven’t subsided much since. Creamer cut her usual 90-minute warmup to a half-hour to conserve energy, hasn’t been able to eat solid food for three days and nibbled on dry toast and bagels during her round Saturday.
At times during the third round, Creamer would hit a shot, then double over in pain.
“The best position for me is hunched over,” Creamer said. “I’m not a big complainer, but one more day – that’s what I keep telling myself.”
If Creamer wins the season-ending event that’ll probably be best remembered as Annika Sorenstam’s presumed finale on the LPGA Tour, not only will she nudge Lorena Ochoa by $41,457 for the title, she’ll become the first U.S.-born money champion since Betsy King in 1993.
Ochoa earned $8,000 this week, but didn’t qualify for the weekend rounds. A victory would push Creamer just over $2.8 million for 2008; King won $595,992 when she took the cash crown.
Suzann Pettersen put together the best round Saturday with a 4-under 68, shaking off a triple-bogey at the par-4 fourth with almost flawless golf the rest of the way. Pettersen got back to even by the seventh, then ensured her spot in Sunday’s field with four straight birdies on holes 13-16.
Considering she made two birdies in the first two rounds combined, an eight-birdie Saturday surely did oodles for her confidence.
“I still think the best golf for me this week is ahead of me,” said Pettersen, who has three second-place finishes in 2008 but no wins, after claiming five titles a year ago.
Angela Stanford shot a 69, one shot back of Pettersen, to earn her spot in Sunday’s dash for the cash, which was displayed in a clear plastic box, with 10,000 bills – all $100s – neatly bundled. Creamer and Seon Hwa Lee shot 70s, and Ji-Yai Shin and Jeong Jang were another shot back.
A three-way playoff decided the final two spots: Karrie Webb and Eun-Hee Jee advanced when Sun Young Yoo three-putted the par-3 17th.
Webb and Creamer are the only players to reach all three final rounds of the ADT since it adopted the eight-player, erase-the-previous-scores Sunday format in 2006. Neither has finished better than third.
If course knowledge counts for anything, it’ll help Webb. She’s a regular at Trump International, albeit under far different conditions.
“It’s almost, sometimes, I think a disadvantage that I play here so much, because it doesn’t play the way it does when I play it the other 99 percent of the time,” Webb said.
Katherine Hull, the leader after the first and second rounds, started with four bogeys in her first six holes Saturday. If this was a normal week, she’d have been tied for fifth at that point, but instead was quickly dropping well out of contention to even play Sunday.
Hull chipped in for birdie at the par-3 11th, but wound up shooting 79 after going 4 over on her final three holes.
Stiff wind made a tough course even harder. Karen Stupples putted four times for triple-bogey at the par-4 16th, then tossed her ball into the water out of frustration on her way to a 77. In-Kyung Kim shot 80, and Helen Alfredsson made triple-bogey at 18 to shoot 74, which meant par at the finishing hole would have sent her to Sunday.
They’d all gladly trade places with Creamer, her abdominal distress notwithstanding. She was planning to have tests to rule out appendicitis, and was optimistic of simply keeping down some food and getting a bit of rest. The lure of a $1 million payday and a money title might prove the best medicine.
“All I know is I’m definitely not feeling my best,” Creamer said before going to the hospital. “But we’ll try to tough it out.”