Surrounded by steel and glass office towers, P.J. Clarke’s – a two-level, brick-face American bar and grill in midtown Manhattan that first opened in 1884 – is a throwback for people who unapologetically crave the classics. Frank Sinatra, Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor passed through the venerable wooden doors, but around the corner on 55th Street, through a discreet entrance and up two flights of stairs, is P.J. Clarke’s Sidecar, a modern hangout that pays homage to the original next door.
Although she has arguably been the face of American women’s golf since winning the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont, Paula Creamer, wearing a creme-colored blouse and jeans, blended into the space perfectly with the lunchtime crowd. Creamer, known as the Pink Panther, could have been a marketing executive or someone at an ad agency. Creamer’s handshake, however, blew her cover. These hands have a leathery, callused texture that no amount of expensive creams can hide. It’s the result of thousands of hours spent on the range.
She may be a Twitter whiz (@ThePCreamer), but Creamer has logged a lot more time with her irons than her iPhone.
On this steamy summer day, Creamer, who was born in Mountain View, Calif., and will turn 27 on Aug. 5, woke up in Orlando, Fla., but caught an early-morning flight to the Big Apple for a whirlwind media tour to promote this Ricoh Women’s British Open at St. Andrews’ Old Course.
“I’ve always loved links golf because there is so much creativity with things – the key shots like the knockdowns, the hold-offs, the bump-and-runs, things like that,” she said. “Just knowing that you’re going to get some terrible breaks and you’re going to get some breaks that are amazing. You just have to be ready because some things are going to go your way and some things aren’t.”
Creamer said that playing St. Andrews for the first time was an amazing experience, but noted that it didn’t fit what she thinks the event is supposed to be about as much as Royal Liverpool did.
“Last year at Hoylake was probably my favorite because I think it was what a British Open is all about,” she said. “It was hard. It was like standing underneath a shower!”
Creamer is making her ninth start at the Women’s British Open and has twice tied for third, including last year at Royal Liverpool, one shot behind Park and 10 behind runaway winner Jiyai Shin.
As one of the game’s elite players, Creamer endeavors to win every major, but there is no hiding from Inbee Park these days. Having won all three LPGA majors so far this season, Park is going for a fourth at “The Home of Golf.”
“She’s just been making everything,” Creamer said. “She’s on a roll. I played junior golf with her growing up, and she did the same thing for a while, and she just dominated. Right now she’s hitting it really well and putting herself in good spots, but whatever she looks at, it’s in.”
In early 2008, as Tiger Woods was in the midst of a six-event winning streak spanning parts of two seasons worldwide, Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion, told me that he wanted to be the man to stop Woods. A few weeks later, the Australian did just that when he won the WGC-CA Championship at Doral.
When I asked Paula Creamer if she wanted to be the one to break Park’s major streak by winning at St. Andrews in August, she answered directly.
“Of course you want to be that person; that’s what I want to do,” she said. “Of course, I thought Sebonack fit my game really well, but U.S. Opens are so tough because there is such a big difference between morning times and afternoon times the first two days. I didn’t start off too strong, but I won the weekend, and that’s something that I looked at. So yeah, for me, I want that.”
If Creamer is going to be the one who stops Park from winning her fourth consecutive major, she’s going to need lots of things to go her way – starting Thursday at 6:52 a.m. when she tees off in the opening round.