2005: LPGA - Creamer: Million-dollar baby

Evian, France

In her first few months on tour, Paula Creamer proved she could compete with the LPGA’s top players. At the Evian Masters, Creamer showed she could dominate them.

The recent high school graduate took control with a 6-under-par 66 in Round 3 to lead by seven going into the final day, then shot a 1-under 71 July 23 to finish at 15-under 273 and claim an eight-shot victory over Lorena Ochoa and amateur Michelle Wie.

The lopsided victory at the LPGA’s second-richest stroke-play event – her second title this season – was worth $375,000 and made Creamer a millionaire at age 18 and the youngest LPGA player to earn $1 million. She now ranks No. 3 in 2005 earnings with $1,114,650, behind only Annika Sorenstam and Ochoa, and became the second rookie to earn $1 million, surpassing the $1.002 million won by Karrie Webb in 1996.

More importantly to Creamer, it also moved her into the top 10 in U.S. Solheim Cup points at No. 9, gave her a commanding 473-point lead in the Rolex Rookie of the Year points race and practically put her three-fourths of the way toward a sweep of her major goals for her rookie season. The top 10 in points on Aug. 28 at the conclusion of the Wendy’s Championship will automatically make the Solheim team.

“That is a huge thing,” Creamer said of cracking the top 10 in Solheim points. “I am going to have to re-evaluate all of my goals now, but it is not over yet. There are still a lot of tournaments where players can move into the top 10, but I feel good where I am at right now.

“Before I hit my first professional ball, I wanted to make the Solheim Cup team. I knew I had to win or else I would not be able to make it, but Solheim Cup was the main thing. Rookie of the Year was in there (but the Solheim Cup) was the one thing I wanted because if I did that, then everything else kind of took care of itself. . . . I want to win a major as well, that was one of my goals.

“One more left.”

Creamer gets a shot to accomplish that final hurdle this week at the Weetabix Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale, where she will face many of the same players she routed at Evian. That includes Sorenstam, who shot 66 in Round 2 to get into contention, but posted scores of 72-75 the final two days to finish 12th.

After making a bogey on No. 1 at Evian Masters Golf Club, Creamer regained control and never wavered, closing with 11 pars and a birdie over her final 12 holes. She finished with three birdies and two bogeys Sunday.

Wie gained some ground with a final-round 68. The 15-year-old amateur collected her third runner-up finish of the year in six LPGA events – she also tied for second at the SBS Open and the McDonald’s LPGA Championship.

“I just left so many shots out there,” Wie said. “I couldn’t count how many putts I missed. It’s pretty frustrating, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with the way I hit it. I came back yesterday and today and I felt like I improved.”

Creamer defeated Wie for only the second time in a pro event – and the second in a row – improving her record against her fellow teen to 2-7-1.

“I don’t really see it as a rivalry,” Creamer said. “We’re all just trying to find our games and play our best golf. I compare myself to the No. 1 player in the world, which is Annika Sorenstam, and I’m not quite there yet.”

In France, though – amid the scenic splendor of the Alpine peaks – she appeared awfully close to the top.

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