Notes: Creamer says 2011 'hardest' year of career

Paula Creamer eyes her putt at No. 18 on Saturday at the CME Group Titleholders at Grand Cypress in Orlando, Fla.

Paula Creamer eyes her putt at No. 18 on Saturday at the CME Group Titleholders at Grand Cypress in Orlando, Fla.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Paula Creamer grew up fast. Just not in the traditional sense. Chalk this up to a year of growing pains.

“Out of all the seven years that I’ve played,” Creamer said, “I would say this has probably been the hardest year. I thought last year was difficult, but this one is much harder.”

Creamer heads into the final round of the CME Group Titleholders two strokes behind Sandra Gal and Hee Young Park. She hasn’t won since the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont, a surprising and frustratingly long drought.

Swing changes and a sparse schedule kept Creamer from hitting her stride this year. She and her swing coach, David Whelan, are trying to gain more distance off the tee. Her steep golf swing has given her a stunning iron game, but it doesn’t produce the length she needs with her driver.

“I’m trying to work on almost two different golf swings if you can think of that,” Creamer said. “Trying to hit the ball on the way up with my driver.”

Creamer ranks 110th in driving distance and is T-2 in greens hit.

Off the course, she’s trying to find a balanced sense of independence.

“A lot of it is just becoming a woman in a sense, and doing things a little bit more on my own, not as much relying on my parents to do stuff,” Creamer said. “Nothing to do with golf. People go through it in college. I’ve been sheltered from that for so long. It’s not a bad thing by any means, it’s just trying to become a grownup as well as being a top athlete out here.”

As for the ring she’s been wearing on her left hand since the start of the Asian swing, Creamer said it’s a promise ring.

“I am not going down the aisle anytime soon,” she said.

• • •

Smart money: Yani Tseng loves to bet. Sometimes that singular focus helps her to block out a world of expectations. On Saturday morning, she told her caddie, Jason Hamilton, that $100 was on the line. She had to shoot 3 under.

“He's like, ‘Come on, World No. 1, you should play better than that,’ ” Tseng said. “I said, ‘I played bad on the first two days.’ ”

Tseng won easily, firing a 6-under 66 to pull within three strokes of the lead.

Na Yeon Choi said it’s scary how much Tseng has focused on being positive, smiling wide as she walks to her ball.

“Smiles always keep me very relaxed,” Tseng said. “Sometimes, I mean, probably not too much because I smile even when I'm (standing over the ball).”

Tseng laughed. Smiles come easy on days like these.

• • •

Moving on: One of the tour’s longest player/caddie relationships has come to a close. Natalie Gulbis parted ways with Greg Sheridan, her right hand these last eight years. Matt Kilgariff, one of Butch Harmon’s instructors, has been carrying the bag the last two weeks in the hope that he can find something useful to relay back to Harmon.

“My short game is atrocious,” said Gulbis, who hasn’t posted a top 10 all season and couldn’t break par in three days at Grand Cypress.

Gulbis praised Sheridan for sticking with her through a host of injuries and down years. She said they never once had an argument. She just needed to make a change.

“I’ve just got to figure out what’s going on with my game,” she said.

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