Paula Creamer tosses her pink golf ball into the crowd after capping her victory in the Farr Classic with a par on No. 18 yesterday at Highland Meadows.
For Paula Creamer yesterday, navigating her way through the swirling winds and the portion of the tournament field looking to catch her at Highland Meadows Golf Club was a bit like traveling in the eye of a hurricane.
There was plenty of action both in front of her and right around her, yet the 21-year-old Californian tried to keep things calm on the inside.
Although she managed just a pedestrian final-round score of 2-over-par 73, she remained just cool and steady enough to complete her wire-to-wire run at the top of the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic presented by Kroger.
Creamer (60-65-70-73-268) closed the tournament at 16-under par, two shots better than fellow Californian Nicole Castrale.
"Having a four-shot lead sounds pretty easy, but it's also very hard knowing that there's going to be so many [spectators] coming out," Creamer said. "Then, when you get all this wind, it was difficult when you had to hit fairways and you had to hit greens. Pars were fine.
First-time Farr champion Paula Creamer gets a hug from her mother, Karen Creamer, after yesterday's victory. Winning this event was important to the LPGA Tour's Pink Panther.
"I was trying to get as many birdie opportunities as I could. My caddie and I just misjudged a couple holes, which was unfortunate, but it was a struggle and I managed to make some really good putts."
Castrale leapfrogged from 15th place after 54 holes to second, rallying with a final-round 64.
Eun-Hee Ji, 22, a rookie from South Korea, who played in yesterday's final threesome with Creamer and Australian Rachel Hetherington, opened the round four shots from the lead.
Ji did climb within two strokes of Creamer on the 12th hole, dropping a birdie while Creamer was making bogey. Ji picked up $85,723 for third place.
"I missed a few putts," Ji said. "[There was] a little bit of pressure. I had a little bad play today."
Managing to get even closer to Creamer at that point was Shanshan Feng, an 18-year-old rookie from China. Feng, who opened the day eight shots back at 10-under, carded five birdies through 13 holes to get to 15-under.
It was at that point that Creamer responded, and her chief contenders slipped up just enough to provide some breathing room.
Creamer sank a nine-footer for bird on the 13th green to return to 17-under.
"When I made the turn I had a two-shot lead and then I made some good pars," Creamer said. "Then, when I had the three-putt on 12, that's when I said, 'What are you doing? You need to finish this round.' I came out on the next hole and birdied it. That was the only worry of the day, really."
Subsequently, Feng made bogey at both 14 and 15. Australian Karrie Webb, who had gone as low as 13-under at 12 playing with Feng, bogeyed three of her next four holes and wound up placing fifth at 11-under. And, finally, Ji made bogey at 15 to go back to 13-under, where she ended the day in third place.
Creamer, the third-ranked women's player in the world this year, added $195,000 to her 2008 tournament earnings with her third victory of the season and seventh overall since joining the tour in 2005.
In retrospect, Creamer's title here - which takes on special personal significance because of her sponsorship connection with Owens Corning and her nickname (Pink Panther) - was all but forged by the tournament's midway point.
She came within one shot of Annika Sorenstam's all-time LPGA single-round raw score record (59) by shooting an 11-under-par 60 at the Meadows on Thursday, then backed that up with a 65 in Friday's second round. At that point, she was 17-under and six strokes ahead of the next contender.