MOBILE, Alabama (AP) — The Pink Panther was just a cub the first time she celebrated a victory at Magnolia Grove.
Five years after winning the 2002 Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Junior Classic, Paula Creamer ran away with the Tournament of Champions on Sunday, winning by eight strokes in a wire-to-wire victory on The Crossings course.
“Winning on this golf course has definitely helped me come to this point where I won as a professional,” Creamer said. “That was very cool to be able to have won here as an amateur and to have won here as a professional in a short amount of time.
“It’s very exciting and a lot of the fans, they came out, a lot of the volunteers said we watched you when you were playing as a junior. It means a lot. I was talking to my parents about it, too, just watching how it’s all progressed and here we are now today – won by eight shots against the best players in the world.”
The 21-year-old Californian won in style, complete with pink outfit, hat and ball.
“All of my other tournaments that I won have been with the white ball,” said Creamer, the SBS Open winner in February in Hawaii. “So, this was a little extra added pressure I put on myself with that, but I’m glad I won with my pink ball.”
She closed with her second straight 4-under 68 to finish at 20-under 268, a stroke off the tournament record set last year by Lorena Ochoa.
Creamer nearly had her third straight bogey-free round, but dropped a stroke on the par-4 18th – a hole she birdied the first three days – after driving into a difficult lie in a fairway bunker. The bogey was her first since the ninth hole Thursday, a span of 62 holes – the longest streak on tour this year.
“I wanted to break the record,” Creamer said. “It definitely was a goal of mine. But especially in the middle of the round where I started making some birdies and had something to go for. You know, it is kind of a bummer that I didn’t get it. But at the same time, I will take it. It’s a win.”
Creamer earned $150,000 for her second victory of the year and fourth in three seasons on the LPGA Tour. She joined Ochoa (seven) and Suzann Pettersen (five) as the only multiple winners this year and jumped to third on the money list with $1,364,298.
“I gave myself a lot of chances,” Creamer said. “I stayed really confident with myself, and I believed I could do it. I was a little nervous going in with a six-shot lead, but still, a lot can happen out on the golf course, especially here.”
Birdie Kim (68) was second at 12 under, and Annika Sorenstam (70), Natalie Gulbis (68) and Pat Hurst (72) tied for third at 10 under in the event for tournament winners from 2004-07 and active Hall of Famers. Pettersen (72) joined Jimin Kang (65) and Jin Joo Hong (73) at 8 under, and Ochoa (70) was 7 under.
Kim had her best finish since winning the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open.
“I never try to catch a person, I just try to score myself,” said Kim, who started the day eight shots out of the lead. “I mean all this week I played really easy. I tried to get a good finish this week.”
Sorenstam, winless since September 2006, earned a spot in the season-ending ADT Championship at Trump International.
“I’ve done well there in the past and I really like it,” Sorenstam said. “It’s a big event for us at the end of the year and now when I’m healthy and now when I’m ready to play, I want to play as much as I can, so it means a lot for me to get into that event. It’s a different type format but I’m just happy to be playing and competing.”