Reuters - Mon, 12 Jul 07:47:00 2010
American Paula Creamer pulled away from her rivals to earn a four-stroke victory in the US Women's Open at Oakmont, Pennsylvania.
The victory finally fulfilled the great expectations placed on the 23-year-old Creamer, who had won eight times on the LPGA Tour but had been frustrated for years by a series of near-misses in the big events.
"I was always considered a pretty solid player in my career," Creamer said. "But the question was always asked, 'Why haven't you won a Major?' Now that question will never be asked again."
Creamer, wearing her signature pink outfit for the final round, shot a two-under-par 69 for a three-under-par 281 total and was the only player in the field to better par.
Former LPGA Championship winner Suzann Pettersen of Norway and Choi Na-yeon of South Korea tied for second on one-over-par 285.
Pettersen, stymied by poor putting early in the round, birdied the last for a closing 69, while 22-year-old Choi fired a 66, boosted by an eagle-three at the par-five ninth hole.
"With my eyes closed I probably putt better," a disgusted Pettersen said.
It was an especially sweet and well-earned victory for Creamer, coming on a vaunted Oakmont course that had hosted 12 previous majors and after surgery to repair a torn ligament in her left thumb that made her hand ache.
When her short par putt on the last fell in the hole, Creamer covered her face in her hands and wept with joy as she hugged her caddy, playing partners and parents on the green.
"It's been an amazing ride," Creamer said.
Creamer acknowledged that her thumb had throbbed with pain during the round and said she was proud that she stuck with her game plan and executed the shots she needed.
"It will be nice to rest with the US Open championship next to my name," a beaming Creamer said.
Creamer was among 33 players who returned early on Sunday morning to complete the third round of the storm-hit event.
Ahead by three shots when she came back to play the last five holes of the third round, Creamer never relinquished her lead in 23 holes of golf Sunday although her advantage shrank to two shots during the final round before she pulled away.
Creamer's closest pursuers at the start fell back early.
Wendy Ward, who began three back, triple-bogeyed the first hole.
South Korean Amy Yang, 20, was four back at the start but took a pair of double-bogeys within the first five holes.
Choi surged within two shots of the lead when she capped off a brilliant front nine of five-under 31 with her eagle at the ninth but could get no closer.
Pettersen stayed close early but a pair of mid-round bogeys dropped her down before she finished with two birdies in the last three holes for a share of second place.
One shot behind Choi and Pettersen was South Korean Kim In-kyung, who fired a 68 for two-over-par 286.
Another stroke away were Shin Ji-yai (68) and Amy Yang of South Korea (71) along with American Brittany Lang, who also took advantage of some forward tees to post a final-round 69.