A Kid Yeah But What a Player

By George WhiteJuly 28, 2005, 4:00 pm
And to think that only a couple of months ago she had to interrupt her career to go to her high school graduation. Now - shes officially a millionaire.
 
Paula Creamer has come out of the gigantic shadow cast by her fellow teen-ager, Michelle Wie. Last week Paula won for the second time ' thats this year, in professional tour events, while still at the youthful age of 18. She has left Wie ' and virtually all the LPGA save Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa ' in the dust.
 
Paula Creamer
Paula Creamer picked up her second trophy of the year at the Evian Masters.
Shes third on the tour in money won 'how does $1,114,650 in the bank sound? And while most girls in the summer of their 18th year are thinking only about shopping and boyfriends, shes thinking about shopping and a boyfriend, too ' but also about the Womens British Open. The Weetabix Womens is on the agenda this week.
 
Last week it was the Evian Masters in France ' now, theres an exciting possibility for an 18-year-old, making a ton of money while working in France. Oh yes - she won there ' did I say that? She won by eight shots over a field that included, yes, Ms. Sorenstam.
 
She recently participated in her high school graduation in Bradenton, Fla., where she had moved four years ago from Pleasanton, Cal., to pursue golf on a 365-day basis. She persuaded her parents that was what she wanted more than anything else on earth. Paula was 14 at the time, but her parents hesitantly agreed, renting a condo while keeping their house in Northern California just in case.
 
I know I've not lived the normal teenage life, said Creamer. I know that. I realized that when we moved to Florida and I'm trying to pursue my dreams and being here right now.

But for me, I think that on the golf course, I'm a totally different person. When I'm here, it's all business. I mean, this is my job now. This is what I have to do and I love doing it and that makes it even better.
 
Poppa is a pilot for American Airlines, and he was able to transfer his base from San Francisco to Miami. It was he who asked the big question of Paula when she was 14 and trying to decide whether to be a cheerleader or be a golfer: Do you want to cheer for people or have people cheer for you? And there really was only one answer, Paula decided.
 
It certainly isnt easy when you have to leave your friends and your home and uproot yourself across the continent, just because of golf. But Paula is whats known as a phenom. That not withstanding, though, she still is just a girly-girl when shes not with the women who play the tour.

When I'm off the golf course and I'm away from, you know, golfers, I'm just a normal 18 year old, she says. I like to do everything. I like to go shopping, hang out, all of the things that other people do.
 
It's just I have a job right now and a lot of the other teenagers that I know and my friends, they don't, and that's the difference. But off the course - normal girl.
 
Normal girl sort of. Creamer realizes that she has missed out ' is going to miss out ' on a lot of juicy little things that come the way of normal girls. But how many girls make $375,000 while working a week in France? How much MORE comes her way now that normal girls never have a chance of experiencing? Paula thinks its a hugely beneficial trade-off.
 
This is what I want to do, she said resolutely. I'm happy doing this. I have so much fun out on the golf course. Golf is so enjoyable because every day is different. It's not going to be the same thing twice. That's what I really enjoy.
 
I mean, there's times, of course, where I just want to go home and sleep or go home and just do nothing. But in the back of my mind, I have my goals and my dreams that I want to achieve.
 
She played at several sports when she was growing up ' acrobatic dance, softball, soccer. She lived off the first hole at a club in Pleasanton, her father was a single-digit handicapper, but she had never played when several friends suggested taking lessons when she was 12. Paula grudgingly went along, and found that she thoroughly enjoyed it.
 
Now, though she is still just a girl herself, she counsels other little girls who might want to play golf.
 
I think just to have fun with it, she said, and realize that I've always said to little girls, There are other girls out there that want to dream about what you're dreaming about and you're not alone. It's a sport that is getting bigger and bigger over the years.

I remember when I was 12 years old, getting involved with golf, I played with the boys. There weren't any girls, but there are (golfers); you just have to kind of look around and find them.
 
Her talent ' and in no small measure her looks ' have already persuaded three companies to jump on the Creamer bandwagon: ADT, Royal Bank of Scotland and addidas. Undoubtedly there are going to be a lot of new contracts because of her success this year. And Creamer leaped into the top 10 in the Solheim Cup standings with the win at Evian. That, she says, was the ultimate goal this year. And it looks like that goal will be achieved.
 
You know, I hope I bring it in a positive way, said Paula. I'm out here just trying to achieve my dreams and play golf and (do it) for the good of the game.
 
And also, I hope that there's more younger girls that get involved with it as well. I'm 18, so I think with that, that helps out with teenagers that are trying to get here and know that they can do it.
 
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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.