EDINA, Minn. - Her eyes misting, threatening to go to full blown tears, Paula Creamer triple speed stalks right down the corridor underneath a section of the massive clubhouse that separates the ninth green from the 10th tee. Having already finished her round, fellow next generation American Morgan Pressel is standing off on the corridor's side.
When Pressel sees Creamer, she reaches her hand out, tries to offer a word of encouragement, oblivious to what's just gone on.
Creamer's not stopping, though. Not for Pressel. Not for anyone. Not even for an instant. If she stops, they'll be no halting the breakdown, no stopping the tears coming from her fears.
"What just happened at nine?" Pressel asks a few reporters as Creamer disappears from view, walking faster than those middle-aged women who lap a mall every morning before it opens. Someone steps in to try and explain with Creamer's shoes still echoing.
What happened at nine? What didn't happen?
Paula Creamer lost her chance at the U.S. Women's Open on nine, essentially kicked her dream back skyrocketing down off the green. A round already wobbling more than a tent in a tornado turned into one of those final rounds from the type of nightmares Greg Norman never admits he has.
Double bogey 6 on a short par 4. Any questions?
If you have them, Paula Creamer is in the white trailer bathroom just off the 10th tee. She books in there after blowing off Pressel. In fact, Creamer spends so much time in there that her playing partner, Stacy Lewis, goes ahead and hits her 10th tee shot with that bathroom door still closed tight.
Still, Lewis is waiting another good five minutes before Creamer finally emerges.
"What, did she go in there to punch a wall or something?" a fan standing against the 10th tee box ropes with her daughter asks.
Something like that. When that door finally swings open, Creamer's wearing dark shades for the first time all day.
Paula Creamer went "Adam Morrison in the NCAA Tournament" at the U.S. Women's Open. Like Morrison, the Gonzaga star who infamously broke down with two seconds still left in an NCAA Tournament loss to UCLA a few years ago - and still gets mocked for it on YouTube - Creamer lost it in the middle of competition.
She didn't go close to as all-out weepy wimpy as Morrison. Creamer reached that trailer bathroom before then. But tears definitely welled up in her eyes. No matter how lamely she tries to deny it now.
"No, no," Creamer says, trying to dismiss those tears when her round's over, and she's worked the smile back on her face. "I mean, I still had nine holes left. Out here, that's, geez ... that's nothing."
Creamer pauses, still smiling, knowing she's losing the fight.
"But I was ... it's hard. It's just hard," she allows. "You just ... you double a hole that you just cannot go over the green on. And I've been over the green twice this week. Things like that. That's just careless course management. It's just wrong decisions at the wrong times."
Hear a little Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot in Creamer's words? You should. That near run for that trailer bathroom is Creamer's version of Mickelson sobbing in the scoring area telling his wife Amy over and over again, "I'm such an idiot. I'm such an idiot" as she rubs his back and tries to console him.
The 21-year-old Creamer has a lot more career tomorrows ahead of her than Mickelson, of course. But like in women's tennis, players in women's golf are starting to get old fast. It's a new game now, and the chances you'll ever see another player being dominant into her early-to-mid 30s like Annika Sorenstam keep getting more and more remote.
Younger good players join the LPGA Tour every year, raise the overall level of competition, make it harder and harder to win on a Tour that's never come close to having the balance found on the PGA Tour. On the same day that Creamer lost her best chance to win a major, 19-year-old Inbee Park became the youngest U.S. Women's Open winner ever in a cakewalk around Interlachen Country Club.
That's just not a blow to an increasingly irrelevant Michelle Wie, whose hype legend demanded that she be the youngest everything - and now seems to see someone else grab one of those marks every month. It's a gut jab to Creamer, too. It's fair to wonder now - after the way she fell apart in the Minneapolis suburbs (not just the Sunday 78, but the way she almost lost all composure) - if Creamer will ever win a major.
Playing in the group ahead of Creamer and Lewis (an inspirational story who you knew never really had a chance), Inbee Park sees the carnage unfold up on the leaderboard. When Park notices that Creamer, her biggest threat, has double bogeyed No. 2 - a par-5 birdie hole - she knows what's going on.
That it's in the head, not the swing.
"The winner doesn't always win by herself," Park says, having been two shots down going into the day. "I think the second place player makes the winner."
Park may be a teenager who's still adjusting to life in America, but she understands major championship golf like an old sage. If Tiger Woods isn't playing, high-stakes golf usually dissolves into who throws up over themselves the least rather than who hits great shots. It certainly played out like that at Interlachen with Park going 2-under on a day when no one within eight shots of the lead coming in can shoot better than a 75.
When things starting slipping apart, Creamer couldn't hold it together.
Including Paula Creamer, the contender with the most to lose. Creamer comes out in all pink - short pink skirt, tight pink top and bright pink ball included. This is her version of Tiger's Sunday red, but Lewis, who is playing in her first tournament as a pro, looks like the more experienced player. Creamer's unmissable pink ball only seems to mock her from bunker after bunker.
By the time Creamer reaches the 12th tee, the sunglasses are off. For good. She's effectively hid the worst of the meltdown. But as moral victories go, that's like selling off stock right after the market crashes.
Creamer still signs autographs for little girls after her round, still comes over and wraps Park's caddie Brad Beecher up in a hug and says, "Great job. Incredible job."
None of that erases the meltdown, the truth that when things starting slipping apart, Creamer couldn't hold it together. Morgan Pressel saw it, too. Paula Creamer went Adam Morrison in the U.S. Women's Open.
How do you come back from that?
June 30, 2008
Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Anyone looking back at the final scores of the 2009 Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's will almost certainly come to the wrong conclusion that this was a comfortable three-shot win for Catriona Matthew. It was anything but as the seemingly imperturbable Scot struggled to hit a fairway throughout the final round and was only rescued by some superb recovery shots and a bunch of astonishing long putts.
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