SYLVANIA, Ohio (AP) — Just like the last two weeks, Paula Creamer didn’t play well in the final round of a tournament.
This time, she didn’t have to.
Creamer shot a 2-over 73 Sunday and did just enough to make a big lead stand, going wire-to-wire to win the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic by two strokes.
“I learned you have to stay in your own world,” Creamer said after capturing her seventh career win and third this year. “It doesn’t matter what other people do until you’re walking down the 18th fairway.”
Two weeks ago, while near the top of the leaderboard at the U.S. Women’s Open, she sagged to a 78 to finish in a tie for sixth. Last week at the tour stop in Arkansas, she had a 74 to fall out of contention.
Given another chance, she always seemed to come up with a clutch shot when most needed.
Asked what she was thinking as she approached the final green to a huge ovation, she said, “It’s over!” Then she added, “You try to soak it up because you never know when the next one is going to be.”
Creamer, who won $195,000, had worse scores every day after breaking the tournament record with an 11-under 60 in the first round. She followed that with a 65 and a 70 to finish at 16-under 268, two shots better than Nicole Castrale who closed fast with a 64.
The 21-year-old Californian said it wasn’t easy.
“After you shoot 60, I swear, it’s the hardest thing. Anything over that and you feel like you’re shooting 85,” she said, laughing. “Everybody’s saying, congratulations, congratulations. But you’ve still got three days left.”
Creamer represents the tournament’s title sponsor, which features a pink panther in its advertising. Creamer, who felt she let Owens Corning down when she missed the cut at the Farr in 2007, is known for her pink clothing ensembles, not to mention using pink golf balls, pink grips on her clubs, a pink golf bag and a pink panther club-head cover.
While laying claim to that color, she didn’t put many red numbers on the leaderboard in the final round.
Ahead by four shots at the start, Creamer was fortunate to get away with a bogey on the first hole after chipping out of a bad lie with her tee shot. She had seven pars in a row until reaching the par-4 ninth, where her approach flew over the green. After getting a free drop so she wouldn’t hit the grandstand on her backswing, she hit a flop shot that stopped about 10 feet away. She pumped her right fist – just as she had on the long bogey putt at No. 1 – after rolling in the par-saving putt.
“That was huge,” she said. “That was a great up-and-down. That was probably the biggest moment of the day.”
She saw her lead drop to a shot when rookie Shanshan Feng – the first exempt player from China to play on the LPGA Tour – pushed her with five birdies through her first 11 holes.
Feng said she wasn’t paying any attention to Creamer.
“Just before the tournament, my dad, he’s in China now, he called me and he told me to keep calm and just play my ball,” she said. “(He said) ‘What the others do, it doesn’t matter.’ So I didn’t let it bother me at all.”
Feng, however, quickly fell back with three straight bogeys down the stretch, although she had her best finish of the year. She said she might even buy her father a new car with a portion of the $66,000 she won for finishing fourth.
South Korea’s Eun-Hee Ji, second to Creamer after each of the first three rounds, shot a 72 and was a shot back of Castrale at 271. Feng had a 69 for 272, followed by Karrie Webb who shot a 70 and was at 273.
Castrale was 1 under on the windy day through 10 holes but had a 6-under 31 on the back nine.
“When I got to 13 and I had two par-5s left, my goal was to try to birdie both and post a number and let her (Creamer) see it and basically see what happens,” said Castrale, who has had three top 10s in her last six tournaments.
She almost holed her third shot for eagle on the 17th before settling for birdie. But she never got closer than two shots.
Creamer played the last six holes in even-par, good enough to hold off all the threats. She had 21 birdies and three bogeys the first 54 holes – and one birdie and the same number of bogeys in the final round.
When the heat was on, she remembered to forget about missing that Farr cut a year ago, or her recent final-round failures.
“It was a struggle,” she said. “I learned a lot about perseverance and staying in the moment and forgetting what happened in the past.”
Then she packed up her stuff and headed for a week of vacation, putting a pink bow on any lingering doubts.