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Published: 7/11/2008

'Pink Panther' collects 11 birdies to take early Farr lead

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Paula Creamer's 60 in the first round of the Farr Classic broke Se Ri Pak's record of 61 in 1998 at Highland Meadows. She leads South Koreans Eun-Hee Ji and Gloria Park by four strokes. (THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY)
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<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif> <font color=red><b>VIEW</font color=red></b>: <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&Dato=20080710&Kategori=SPORTS05&Lopenr=145351716&Ref=PH" target="_blank  "><b>Farr Classic photos</b></a> 
Paula Creamer's 60 in the first round of the Farr Classic broke Se Ri Pak's record of 61 in 1998 at Highland Meadows. She leads South Koreans Eun-Hee Ji and Gloria Park by four strokes. (THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY) <br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif> <font color=red><b>VIEW</font color=red></b>: <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&Dato=20080710&Kategori=SPORTS05&Lopenr=145351716&Ref=PH" target="_blank "><b>Farr Classic photos</b></a>
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Gloria Park hits an approach shot on No. 9, her final hole
yesterday at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic. Park shot a 6-under 65 and is tied for second place. Gloria Park hits an approach shot on No. 9, her final hole yesterday at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic. Park shot a 6-under 65 and is tied for second place.
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Ordinarily, Paula Creamer has pretty decent recall when it comes to retracing the shots that led to her birdies following LPGA tournament rounds.

If you play the game of golf well enough, however, apparently you can reach an information overload.

Creamer's uncertainty could be forgiven yesterday at Highland Meadows Golf Club after her tournament-record, 11-under-par 60 in the opening round of the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, presented by Kroger.

"Too many birdies," said Creamer, while struggling to remember which club she used on one of those approach shots. "I forget."

Creamer, nicknamed the "Pink Panther," in part because of her association with this tournament's chief sponsor, rolled her trademark pink golf ball into the cup for birdies 11 times yesterday.

That effort - capped by a terrific 20-foot birdie conversion on the No. 9 green (her final hole) - was one stroke lower than the previous record of 61 carded here by Se Ri Pak exactly 10 years ago to the day.

Pak, the defending Farr champion, used that second-round score, plus a third-round 63 at Highland Meadows, on the way to the first of her record five Farr Classic titles back in 1998. Pak opened her quest for a sixth Farr title with a 3-under 68 yesterday, playing in the group ahead of Creamer, long before an early-evening storm caused an overnight suspension of play with 21 golfers yet to finish. First-round play was scheduled to resume at 7:15 this morning, with the second round to follow.

"Coming in, I felt really good about my game," Creamer said. "I love this golf course and, today, it was just going in. My irons were darts.

"We had such a great gallery. The fans were phenomenal. When you're playing well, that's what you want to do, perform in front of people. It feels great. I mean, 60, geez! You'll take that anywhere."

Creamer's raw score was one shot from the all-time LPGA single-round record of 59 shot by Annika Sorenstam in 2001 in Phoenix, although the tour's all-time money leader's score was a 13-under round achieved on a par-72 course layout. Only three other rounds of 60 have been shot in LPGA play.

"I haven't really been able to make too many putts the past couple of weeks, and it was just kind of like it all saved up for today," Creamer said. "I think the most positive thing was that I gave myself so many opportunities. I hit 18 greens. I missed two fairways.

"I was always in the zone, and I never realized what [score] I was at until the last couple of holes, when I started to think about it a little bit."

Creamer's birdies - which outnumbered her pars by four - came, in order, on numbers 10, 13, 17, 18, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9. The last one broke left-to-right about five feet before having just enough steam to find the cup.

"I was happy that last one went in," Creamer said. "It put a nice topper on the day."

"She made everything," said 2006 Farr champion Mi Hyun Kim, who played in Creamer's group yesterday.

"She hit short putts all day," said Natalie Gulbis, who completed that threesome. "She had tap-ins and, when she did have [longer] putts that she had to make, she made them."

The record round sends Creamer into today's second round with a five-shot lead over South Koreans Eun-Hee Ji and Gloria Park, who each shot a

6-under 65s yesterday.

Two players are tied for fourth, six shots back at 66, including Swedish native Eva Dahllof and South Korean Young Kim.

"I came to this round this morning not feeling very well," Ji said through an interpreter. "My stomach was having some problems, so I didn't anticipate such a great score in the round.

"But the birdie on the first hole kind of boosted up my confidence and I just went from there."

"I haven't played good the past couple tournaments, but I started hitting better last week and I feel really good," Park said. "I'm glad I finished before the weather comes.

"I was close today. I played pretty good and I'm pretty happy about it. There's three days left, so we'll see how it goes [today]."

Park was referring to the inclement weather that suspended play at 6:20 p.m., just minutes after she saved par with a nifty up-and-down on No. 9 to close her round.

Prior to yesterday, the 21-year-old Creamer's low LPGA score was 64.

"It was a dream actually," said Creamer's mother, Karen. "There were some substantial distances that dropped, but she gave herself a chance to make a birdie on almost every hole, so it was really nice to see.

"She has played really good [before], but the putts haven't dropped. So, as far as it going in the hole, this was absolutely the best she's ever played."

Creamer may not have expected a record, but she did anticipate a solid round.

"I had a really good warm-up, I had good putting and I felt good," Creamer said. "I missed one fairway and that was the first hole. After that I hit 18 greens. There was never a moment where I thought, 'Oh my!' I just tried to keep on going."

Creamer - who has won two LPGA tournaments this year and six overall since joining the tour full time in 2005 - entered the Farr Classic with $1,060,960 in earnings through 15 events this season.

Contact Steve Junga at:

sjunga@theblade.com

or 419-724-6461



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