Se Ri Pak walked off the ninth green yesterday, her first round of the 2008 Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic in the books at 3-under 68. Not great,
not awful. She has done better. In fact, exactly 10 years ago to the day, during her rookie year on the LPGA Tour, she walked off that same green with a 61, then the lowest score in women's golf history.
It's not a record anymore. But it was still the Farr Classic record and it was still the Highland Meadows course record.
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Until yesterday, that is.
Anyway, Pak walked off the green, disappeared into the little tent to check and sign her scorecard, did a quick interview, glanced at the young woman in blue standing on the green, put her head down and walked away.
Maybe she couldn't bear to watch.
The gal in all blue, give or take the pink ribbon in her hair, was Paula Creamer and she stood on the fringe of the green, staring at her bright pink ball, studying a 20-foot putt with about 60 inches of left-to-right break, the kind of putt a golfer really doesn't think about making unless said golfer is playing out of his or her mind. The zone, they call it.
Creamer was certainly in one yesterday. She hit 12 of 14 fairways and one of the misses was by about the length of a tee. She hit 18 greens in regulation and that would pretty much account for all of them. She made a
30-foot putt for a birdie, a six-inch putt for a birdie, and about everything in between.
This one, the last one, was 20 feet and she stood there staring it down.
And Se Ri Pak turned and walked away.
Maybe she heard the roar seconds later.
Creamer carded a 60 yesterday to rewrite the Farr and Meadows record books and to take a five-shot lead after the first round. It may not be a cakewalk yet, but it's a good start.
"Tomorrow's another day," Creamer said, "and you never know what could happen."
What? A 59?
It has been done only once, by Annika Sorenstam, and Creamer never gave it a thought yesterday.
When that snake of a putt fell into the cup on its final turn, her playing partner, former Farr champion Mi Hyun Kim, fairly screamed, "Unbelievable, a 60!"
Hmm, thought Creamer, what'd we just shoot here?
"I thought [the course] was par 72," she said. "I forgot this was a 71. It suddenly hit me, 11-under was a 60. I'll take that anywhere, but especially here. This is really special."
It is special here because Creamer is known as the Pink Panther. Confusingly, it was her playing partner, Natalie Gulbis, who was pretty in pink from head to toe yesterday while Creamer opted for various shades of blue. But it's Paula's nickname and it's also Owens Corning's mascot and marketing tool. Owens Corning pays a big chunk of the Farr's purse. The golfer and the sponsor have an endorsement deal. There. That should tie it all together with a pretty pink ribbon.
No, Creamer never thought about golf's magic number, 59. But afterwards, she realized how easily it might have been accomplished.
"There were definitely a couple more shots out there," she said, but certainly not in a complaining way after bettering her previous personal best by a whopping four shots. "I guess I could have shot 59. But I'll take 60."
There was a five-foot putt straight up the slope that rimmed out at No. 11, and a
15-footer at the par-3 sixth where about 98.7 per cent of the ball rolled directly over the cup and suggested Isaac Newton may have been wrong about that gravity thing.
Still, as she said, a 60 is nothing to sniff at.
As is usually the case with such things, it was authored on the greens, which are soft and accessible because of recent rains, and true and pristine
because, well, it's Highland Meadows.
"I haven't made too many putts the last two weeks," Creamer said. "It's like I saved 'em up for one day."
Colin Cann, who has carried Creamer's bag since she turned pro at age 18 in 2005, said his player's rounds are often dictated by the early going.
"If she holes a couple at the start, she relaxes and just gets better and better," he said.
Creamer birdied two of her first four holes, running in testers from eight and 13 feet. Soon after, pretty much everything started dropping.
And, then, she stood on her final green.
Se Ri Pak turned and walked away. And Paula Creamer was in the pink.