MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Paula Creamer made a big move Friday at Magnolia Grove toward joining Lorena Ochoa and Suzann Pettersen as the LPGA Tour’s only multiple winners this year.
After birdieing the final seven holes Thursday for a share of the lead in the Tournament of Champions, Creamer shot a bogey-free, 7-under 65 on Friday to open a five-stroke advantage at 12-under 132.
“I feel very confident. I’m hitting the ball really well,” Creamer said. “There is a lot of golf left. But at the same time, I like where I am at, obviously. … I know people are going to try to go as low as they can the next two days. … I’m going to just have to try to match it each time and we’ll see what happens on Sunday.”
The 21-year-old Californian, the SBS Open winner in February for her lone victory of the season and third in three years, birdied three of the final four holes on The Crossings Course, rolling in a 35-footer on the par-4 18th.
“I actually putted that putt in the practice round so I kind of remembered what it was,” Creamer said. “When I first putted it, I thought it was going to be 2 feet short, but it just kept on going and going and it went in.
“It’s always nice to end on a birdie. It makes dinner taste that much better.”
Jin Joo Hong was second at 7 under after a 67. Annika Sorenstam (67) and Pat Hurst (69) were 6 under, and Karen Stupples (67) was another stroke back in the event limited to tournament winners from 2004-07 and active Hall of Famers.
Pettersen was 4 under after a 71 that included two penalty strokes. She’s coming off consecutive victories in South Korea and Thailand and has won three of her last four starts to raise her season victory total to five.
Ochoa, the defending champion, was 1 under after a 69.
“I’m always positive and I’m always thinking of winning,” Ochoa said. “I’m not going to give up. I know I’m behind, but you never know.”
Already the player of the year, Ochoa has won seven times this season and earned a record $3,337,993. Last year at Magnolia Grove, the Mexican star had weekend rounds of 63 and 65 for a 10-stroke victory and 21-under 267 total, both tournament records.
Pettersen was penalized two strokes on the par-5 13th, the first for accidentally moving her ball while trying to remove a loose branch and the second for failing to play the ball from its original location. Pettersen and playing partner Hurst were taken to the TV compound after the round to watch the incident.
“I had a rules official right there with me and we were staring at the ball and it was three of us and none of us saw it move,” Pettersen said. “We saw it could wobble but from our angle it was impossible to see that it had moved.
“From the TV view and how the camera was angled, you could see it moved. It hardly moved, but it moved enough for it to be penalized. That’s fair enough. That’s how the game should be played. It was just impossible for us to see it from our angle because three of us were staring at the ball.”
The Norwegian star ended up with a double-bogey 7 on the hole.
“It definitely moved, but from her angle there is no way you can see it,” Hurst said. “It moved on camera. I think to the naked eye it’s tough to see unless you are at the right angle. The cameras were at the right angle.
“It’s unfortunate that the TVs were on it at that time because nobody saw it. It’s unfortunate, but it’s just the way it is. You just got to deal with it.”
Sorenstam, winless since September 2006, had seven birdies and two bogeys.
“I’m very pleased,” Sorenstam said. “I had a lot of chances. … It’s a little easier when you know the golf course. And today, I learned from yesterday.”
She hit an 8-iron to 2 inches on the 139-yard 14th.
“It was almost a hole-in-one,” she said. “It’s the closest I’ve been in a long time. That’s the thing on this golf course, you need to be precise with your irons and you need some good breaks around the green so that you end up on the right tier and on the right side of the pin.”
Sidelined nearly two months this season because of neck and back injuries, Sorenstam has won at least one LPGA Tour event every year since 1995.
“This year is just so different,” she said. I think I would care if I would have had a normal season and wouldn’t win. This year, I played 11 tournaments and about half of them I haven’t been competitive, so that really gives me six tournaments to try to win and that’s not easy. I’ll do my best and would love to continue the streak, but I’m not going to be too hard on myself because the competition is out there and if you only had five or six tournaments trying to win, it’s no guarantee.”
Hurst holed out from the fairway for eagle on the 354-yard 18th.
“I had 115 yards, and I hit a wedge and that was it,” Hurst said.
The ball flew straight into the hole.
“I was just trying to make the hole bigger for everybody,” she said.