KAPOLEI, Hawaii (AP) — Down two strokes with three holes to play, Paula Creamer knew it was time to get going. And she did.
The 21-year-old Creamer rallied to win the Fields Open for her fifth LPGA Tour title and second in her last four starts, birdieing four of the final five holes for a one-stroke victory over South Korea’s Jeong Jang on Saturday.
“It was a great, great finish,” Creamer said. “I’ll always remember this finish.”
Playing her trademark pink ball in the final round, Creamer closed with a bogey-free 6-under 66 for a 16-under 200 total.
After holing a 5-foot putt on the par-4 18th for her third straight birdie, Creamer pumped her arms in the air and smiled as the crowd cheered.
“I went out and won the tournament the last three holes,” she said. “I knew I had to make some birdies down the stretch and those were three good holes to make birdie on.”
The putt was set up by an aggressive second shot using a 6-iron from 165 yards, over the pond and onto the green, where it bounced twice and rolled to 5 feet. Jang just missed the green from 153 yards, leaving the door open for Creamer.
With Creamer watching closely, Jang’s 35-foot birdie putt from the fringe curled left. Creamer then calmly made her birdie.
“I felt confident over it,” said Creamer, who tied for 12th last week at Turtle Bay, an event she won last year.
Jang, seeking a wire-to-wire victory, closed with a 69. She had nine top-10 finishes to finish seventh on the money list last year, but failed to win for the first time in three years.
“I really wanted to (win) because I’ve been waiting for a long time and I have a great feeling and I know I can do it,” she said. “But someone’s better than me. So maybe next time, I will try better and harder.
Jang said she could sense Creamer’s confidence with the putter.
“When she has the feeling, she’s going to make all (of them),” she said.
The 2005 Women’s British Open champion’s 1-foot birdie putt on No. 15 gave her two-stroke lead over Creamer with three holes to play.
“I was thinking that putts are going to have to start falling soon, only have three left,” Creamer said.
Michelle Wie shot a 6-over 78 to finish 20 strokes behind Creamer. At 4-over 220, Wie tied for last among the 74 players who made the cut.
Lindsey Wright finished a career-best third at 14 under, birdieing three of the final five holes for a bogey-free 67.
“My goal was to finish fifth,” she said. “To contend for a tournament was an awesome feeling.”
Annika Sorenstam (68) followed at 12 under, a week after winning the season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay last week for her 70th LPGA Tour title.
“It’s been a fun two weeks. I’m very happy with the way I’ve been playing,” she said. “It’s fun again.”
She birdied three of her first five holes to make the turn at 11 under, two strokes behind Jang, but had a costly double bogey on No. 10, followed by three straight birdies, a bogey and a birdie.
“Made one or two mistakes coming down the stretch, but then I bounced back,” she said. “It wasn’t enough, but it was fun to have a chance.”
The 37-year-old Sorenstam has proven she’s healthy and confident again after coming off an injury-shortened season in 2007 where the Swedish star was winless for the first time since her rookie season in 1994.
“It’s nice to be back, being in contention and getting that feel of what it’s like when you have to hit that pressure shot,” Sorenstam said. “I’m definitely looking forward to next week, and I should really say the season in general.”
Karen Stupples (66) and Minea Blomqvist (69) tied for fifth at 11 under.
Conditions at Ko Olina were balmy and calm for a third day, forcing players to go low.
Creamer, who suffered from flu-like symptoms earlier this week, made her move late, and early. She sank a 35-foot birdie putt to catch Jang for the lead. Jang regained the lead at 13 under with a birdie on No. 6.
“I was kind of in a little drought for quite a while,” said Creamer, who parred 10 straight holes before her birdie flurry. “I just kept telling myself, ‘Stay patient. The putts are going to fall.”‘
But time was running out.
Jang and Creamer both easily birdied the par-5 14th. Creamer kneed her putter after just missing a 15-foot eagle putt. Jang earlier missed her 23-footer for eagle.
The American shook her fist after sinking a 12-foot birdie putt that pulled her within a stroke of Jang with two strokes to play. Creamer hit a rescue and made a 20-foot putt on No. 17 for a share of the lead.
Creamer, who earned $195,000, will head to the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore. She finished third on the money list last year with 13 top-10 finishes, including two victories.
“I’m ready for that flight tomorrow. I’m going to be awake the whole time,” she said.
While Wie struggled, another 18-year-old from Honolulu playing on a sponsor exemption performed well. Ayaka Kaneko, a senior at Sacred Hearts Academy, closed with a 71 to tie defending champion Stacy Prammanasudh (71) for 45th at 3-under 213.
Kaneko advanced to the quarterfinals of last year’s U.S Women’s Amateur Public Links and finished second in the U.S. Girls Junior.