The final threesome in Sunday’s Marathon Classic was more than three Jane Does chasing a check.
Paula Creamer, arguably, is the biggest name in American women’s golf. Beatriz Recari may be, without exaggeration, the best LPGA player you’ve never heard of prior to this past week. And Lexi Thompson, well, Lexi Thompson is simply the future.
We got a glimpse of all of that at Highland Meadows Golf Club. Recari won a tense showdown with Creamer, steering in a pressure-packed, 4-foot putt on the 72nd hole, the heat from a blistering sun and from thousands of fans pressed together that must have made it feel like 40 feet.
PHOTO GALLERY: Marathon Classic fourth round
Those two went at it for 18 holes, thrust and counterthrust. And when the action needed an exclamation point, Thompson provided it.
She followed 13 straight pars with a hole-in-one at No. 14 — the second car give-away of the week — and then had the folks in the skyboxes buzzing when she reached the green at No. 18 in two shots. The second covered the 240 yards to the front and more. She did it twice in four days; it had only been done once before.
On Saturday night, Creamer had phone conversations with LPGA legends Kathy Whitworth and Nancy Lopez. They have been mentors since she was a kid and when they talk, said Creamer, her world stops.
But she admits she’s not a kid anymore.
“I’m 26 years old,” she said. “I mean, that isn’t old. But these days it seems like it’s ancient. I know I have a new role out here.”
And her old role, that of next great player, that is Lexi Thompson’s slot now. When her putter catches up with the rest of her game, Katie bar the door.
“I don’t think about that,” Thompson, 18, said of the potential for greatness. “I’m out here following my dream and loving every minute of it. I want to win and win a lot. How everything else plays out, we’ll see.”
Creamer was bidding for her 10th tour win and her second at the Meadows. No question she was the people’s choice. But every time she tried to put the hammer down, Recari would answer.
Creamer birdied No. 3; Recari evened it a hole later. Paula birdied No. 5; Beatriz got it back with a 2 at the par-3 sixth. Recari went ahead at 14, but Creamer nailed her approach at No. 16 to three feet and appeared poised to tie. But Recari, also 26, stunned her by dropping in a bomb from 20 feet. And so it went.
“Am I bummed?” Creamer said. “Yeah, super-bummed. But I played great. I really did. Beatriz just played one shot better.”
Recari playing well is nothing new. For your consideration:
This is her second win in 11 starts.
■ She has earned $784,000 this year and will ascend to No. 17 in the world rankings.
■ She ranks fourth in the points race for LPGA player of the year.
■ She has made cuts in 40 of her last 41 tournaments and has won $1.2 million in that span.
Recari winning the Marathon Classic is anything but a fluke. We’ve had a few of those in the past. This was not another.
This is a champion who just might be on the cusp of stardom.
Is it low-hanging fruit for her, waiting to be plucked?
“I have goals and they’re big enough already,” Recari said. “Every day I try to do my best in every single area of this game and of my life to make sure I complete those goals. Every day is an evaluation of how I’m doing, feedback. Obviously, I feel I’m in the right direction and [that] I’m doing things right.
“All I can do is put a good score out there, get those wins, and the wins speak for themselves.”
Yes they do.
Loudly and clearly.
Ask Creamer. She’s still waiting for Recari to blink.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.