Creamer (82) shoots worst score as a pro

By Randall MellApril 24, 2015, 3:17 am

DALY CITY, Calif. – Paula Creamer’s first tee shot Thursday at the Swinging Skirts Classic sailed right and into a small stand of trees.

It never came down.

Marshals and fans were left scratching their heads, wondering where it went and how it could have disappeared. After looking around, Creamer couldn’t make sense of it, either. So she took a penalty for a lost ball and headed back to the tee box.

That is not how she envisioned beginning a “homecoming week” that means so much to her. Creamer grew up in Pleasanton, just 40 miles east of Lake Merced Golf Club.

Her return home would prove a long, hard march through the first round with her husband, Derek, and her parents, Paul and Karen, and so many good friends in tow. She’s a 10-time LPGA winner, a proud competitor, and she’s so adored in these parts. That’s what made her struggle so difficult, because she wanted so hard to please all those people who came out to root for her.

Creamer opened with a triple bogey after the lost ball, made another triple bogey on her front nine, and at day’s end signed for an 82, her highest score in 11 seasons as a pro. It follows her 78 in the final round at the Lotte Championship last weekend.

“It’s very frustrating,” Creamer told after Thursday’s round. “I’m very hard on myself, but I’m a fighter. I’m very positive, and I’m going to keep fighting.”

That’s what this is now for Creamer, a fight. At 28, she’s in a place she has never been. Creamer’s in transition, not just with a new swing, but with new equipment and a completely new life as a newlywed.

She has slid to No. 27 in the world rankings, her lowest position since the rankings debuted in 2006.

“Right now, it’s right between my ears,” Creamer said. “I’m not afraid to talk about it. It’s 99 percent mental.”

Last year was such an emotionally complicated year for Creamer. She roared through a high in her personal life and a frustrating low in her professional life.

Creamer married Derek Heath, a United Airlines pilot, in December. She called her wedding “a perfect day, everything I imagined and more.” The couple honeymooned in New Zealand and Bora Bora.

As a player, last season wasn’t what Creamer imagined it would be.

Though she won at year’s start, Creamer slipped to 22nd on the LPGA money list at year’s end, the lowest finish of her career. She saw her streak of consecutive cuts made end at 82 when she failed to make the weekend at Kingsmill. She also missed her first cut in a major as a pro when she didn’t make the weekend at the LPGA Championship.

Most revealing of all, Creamer finished 51st in greens in regulation. Consistently one of the game’s best iron players, she led the tour in GIR in ’09. She never finished worse than seventh in that category in her first eight years on tour.

What’s happening?

It appears to be a complicated equation. There’s a swing change and its evolution at work. There are new irons in the bag resulting from that swing change. There’s also evolving priorities as a wife with a new lifestyle.

About that swing change ...

Before last year, Creamer went searching for more distance. She huddled with her long-time swing coach, David Whelan, and they went to work changing her swing with her driver. The descending blow that made Creamer such a strong iron player created too much spin with her driver. They worked on getting her to swing more up on the ball with her driver.

“When you’re trying to improve one area, you can sacrifice another,” Whelan said. “It was always a gamble.”

Creamer struggled with it most of last year.

“For a while, I had two different swings,” Creamer said. “They would cross.”

Complicating that was the unique design of Creamer’s irons. She routinely had her irons bent to be 3 degrees weaker than a standard iron. That made a 7-iron more like a strong 8-iron. It helped her hit higher shots. With the swing change, and with technology changing the nature of the bounce of her new irons, Creamer struggled making the same crisp strikes.

“I got better with my driver, but I was working so hard on driver I almost lost my iron swing,” Creamer said. “My strike was all over the place.”

Creamer didn’t realize how her new swing was affecting the nature of the bounce on irons bent to be “weaker.” She didn’t realize it until her caddie, Colin Cann, pointed it out last year.

“It was almost like my irons were bouncing and skidding,” Creamer said. “Even my friends told me my irons didn’t sound the same. They weren’t as crisp.”

Creamer tried to fix that this year switching out her TaylorMade RSi irons, keeping the newest set to standard lofts. She likes the fit now, and she believes these last two rounds notwithstanding, she’s honing a better game.

“It’s just that right now, my misses are a little bit bigger but my good shots are very good,” Creamer said.

Lake Merced, with its tree-lined fairways and cabbage-like rough, punished Creamer’s bigger misses in Thursday’s round. Creamer’s stats weren’t actually bad. She hit 11 fairways, only missed seven greens, but her bigger misses led to those two triple bogeys and four bogeys. She didn’t make a single birdie putt.

Creamer believes her swing is better than it was last year, but she knows there’s lost confidence to be won back working through these changes.

“It’s frustrating, but I’m staying positive,” Creamer said.

The frustration is compounded wanting the changes to come together this homecoming week.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry