GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — The only thing separating Paula Creamer from writing a great comeback story in the $1.5 million ShopRite LPGA Classic are a throbbing, surgically repaired left thumb and about a dozen or so players looking to pocket a big paycheck.
Playing in her first tournament since having the surgery in late March, Creamer put herself in position to win for the first time since 2008 by shooting a 6-under 65 on Saturday to move into second place, just a shot behind M.J. Hur of South Korea.
“Honestly, coming into this week it’s all about just seeing how far I can go, seeing how much my thumb can handle,” Creamer said. “If I play great, great. You know, and that’s kind of what’s been happening.”
Being in position has changed Creamer’s approach a little. The competitive juices are flowing and it’s clear she wants career win No. 9. One could tell by the way he ran around the green on No. 18 after sinking a big-breaking, 45-footer for birdie.
“I mean I’m not out there just on a Sunday stroll,” Creamer said. “I mean I want to win. That’s a goal of mine, of course, but it’s also, I have to look at the big picture and I have to realize that this is what I have to go through to overcome these little mounds for my thumb.”
The players in contention are good, too.
Hur birdied the 18th hole from short range for a 7-under 64 and a 36-hole total of 11-under 131 in her quest for her second LPGA victory.
She actually had a chance for her second win last week, grabbing the halfway lead in the State Farm Classic in Illinois. But she folded over the final 36 holes and finished tied for 16th, well behind winner Cristie Kerr, the first American win on the women’s tour this year.
“I have a bad memory right now,” Hur said of last weekend’s slide. “I try to forget it and get good sleep tonight and get good conditions tomorrow and focus on my ball. That’s all I want tomorrow.”
Hur had eight birdies and one bogey. Her lead could have been two shots had she not missed a 2-footer for birdie on the par 3, No. 17.
“I aim in the center and hit it, pulled it. So I am thinking ‘Oh, stupid putter. What are you doing,” Hur said.
Japan’s Ai Miyazato, a three-time winner on the tour this year, was two shots off the lead along with Australia’s Katherine Hull, who shot a tournament-best 8-under 63 playing early Saturday morning.
Inbee Park, who has three top-10 finishes this year, and fellow South Korean Hee-Won Han are three shots behind.
First-round leader Sherri Steinhauer, who missed all of last year following surgery on both hips, bogeyed the last two holes and was four shots off the lead along with Morgan Pressel.
Suzann Pettersen of Norway and Seon Hwa Lee, who won the last ShopRite Classic here before the tournament went on a three-year hiatus, were in a big group five shots back.
Creamer had seven birdies and one bogey in her second round, which again didn’t get much wind until the afternoon rounds. The 23-year-old rolled in a 25-footer on the first hole and made six birdies in her first 12 holes. Her only bogey came on the par-3, 11th hole when she sailed a 4-wood over the green into a bad lie.
The return has not been without pain. Creamer has been icing her thumb about 10 times a day and the thumb prevents her from hitting knockdown shots and causes problems when she hits into the wind.
Hull has not won since capturing the Canadian Women’s Open in 2008. Her best finish this year has been a tie for 20th, and she missed the cut at the State Farm Classic.
“I mean I’ve kind of gone up and down in terms of my work ethic and my desire to win again, too, as crazy as that sounds,” Hull said. “So I think I’ve got it figured out and I know what I want now, and I’ve set some goals, and yeah, it’s just a matter of executing now.”
Miyazato, who has a chance to take over the No. 1 ranking in women’s golf with a win, had six birdies and two bogeys on Saturday.
Fifteen-year-old Alexis Thompson shot a 76 and failed to make the cut in her first professional event.