Creamer Has Sights Set on No 1

By Mercer BaggsNovember 15, 2005, 5:00 pm
2004 ADT ChampionshipWEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Paula Creamer will wrap up her maiden season on the LPGA Tour at this weeks ADT Championship. Shes won twice, was a member of the victorious U.S. Solheim Cup team, wrapped up Rookie of the Year honors before September, and is currently second on the money list.
 
So how does she rate her success on a scale of 1-10?
 
Paula Creamer
Paula Creamer has earned two LPGA Tour wins and nearly $1.5 million in her rookie season.
Probably a 7, she said Tuesday after seconds of deliberation. It can always get better.
 
The way the 19-year-old sees it, theres still plenty of improvement to be made. A self-admitted goal-setter, she crossed off most of the things on her To Do list this year: winning; making the Solheim Cup team; finishing inside the top 15 in earnings.
 
But she didnt win a major. And shes only the No. 2 female player in the world.
 
I have always set high goals for myself. It just kind of motivates me, she said.
 
When it comes to golf, I (have always) wanted to be the No. 1 player in the world.
 
Creamer isnt the only American Annika Sorenstam may have to fend off over the coming years.
 
Yanks accounted for nine tournament victories this season, the most on tour since 2001. And there wasnt a Juli Inkster or Meg Mallon or Rosie Jones in the winners circle. There was a Stacy Prammanasudh and a Heather Bowie and a Christina Kim.
 
Six of the winners were in their 20s ' or, in Creamers case, teens. And four of them were first-time champions.
 
Creamer and fellow American Cristie Kerr, 28, are multiple winners this year, joining Sorenstam as the only three members of that select group. In addition to her two tour titles, Creamer also won twice in Japan.
 
Then there are the likes of Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel and others just waiting to get their shot in 06.
 
I knew it was just a matter of time before we got some good young American players, said Inkster, the 45-year-old Hall of Fame member. But it happened even sooner than I thought. I was expecting it to take two, three years, and here we are.
 
Its nice to know that these players are stepping up, added the 46-year-old Jones, a 13-time tour winner. The future of American golf is looking very good.
 
The Youth agrees.
 
I think this a very exciting time, said Natalie Gulbis, 22, who has yet to win on tour, but has amassed nearly $1 million this season.
 
Everyone had been kind of buzzing about new American players coming in, young American players making noise, and this was definitely a break-through season, said the 21-year-old Kim, who won last weeks Mitchell Company LPGA Tournament of Champions.
 
Said Inkster: Everything comes in cycles. Like when the Swedes were dominating ' well, one still is.
 
That one, of course, is Sorenstam. And domination is almost an understatement in describing her hold over the rest of the tour over recent years.
 
This season alone, shes won nine times and has accumulated nearly $1 million more than Creamer in five fewer events.
 
By comparison, only five players on the entire tour have earned $1 million.
 
Sorenstam is the defending champion, having defeated Kerr in a playoff a year ago at Trump International Golf Club to capture her third Tour Championship title. A repeat this week and it will mark the second time in the last four seasons that she has won double-digit events on tour.
 
At this years LPGA Corning Classic, Jones referred to Sorenstam as The Big Girl ' in a most flattering way. She has sat comfortably atop the mountain for the past five years, and with very little challenge.
 
Eventually, however, she will have to relinquish her throne. And it may well be an American who seizes control.
 
I think theres a good chance of that, Kim said. Theres definitely still some players from other countries who are also vying for that. There seems to be so many American players clustered at the top now, that it seems like any one of them could overtake her ' eventually.
 
If Creamer has it her way, she will be the one to usurp Sorenstam. And it will happen very, very soon.
 
Im going to have to work really hard this off-season, she said. I have to get a lot longer; I need to get stronger. I need to be able to hit different shots. My putting needs to get better, short game, just creativity type of golf shots. Im glad I have my rookie year under my belt now.
 
When asked if she believed she could be No. 1 in the world next year, she answered confidently, concisely and without hesitation: Yes.
 
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