WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Paula Creamer has nothing to prove.
That’s what fellow American Cristie Kerr said Tuesday at the Solheim Cup.
Kerr said it for all the right reasons, to acknowledge the respect Creamer deserves on this stage, where Creamer has proven herself one of the most formidable players in Solheim Cup history.
Kerr was wrong, though.
Creamer does have something to prove, and Creamer knows it more than anyone.
Creamer wants to prove something to herself, that she’s still relevant, that there are still more victories to be won, more trophies to be claimed, more to conquer and achieve as she moves into her 30s with two of the most difficult seasons of her career behind her.
She said exactly that this summer as she fought to try to make the American team.
“I've had some pretty bad, sad moments,” Creamer said in June. “But I love this game. I love working hard. I love everything about it. I still have such a drive and a passion for getting back to where I want to be.”
Creamer, 31, has won 10 LPGA titles, including the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open. She’s 14-8-5 in the Solheim Cup. She has won more points (16½) than any American in the history of the matches not named Juli Inkster (18½) or Kerr (17½).
But it isn’t enough, not for Creamer. There’s more to prove, more to be won.
That’s why she’s here.
When you’re done trying to prove something to yourself, you’re pretty much done, period.
That’s how this game works.
“It’s such an important week to me, and at the same time, so is my golf and so is my career, long term,” Creamer said Tuesday.
Say what you want about her form the last two seasons, outside her encouraging last push over her last two LPGA starts, but Creamer is still grinding to get better, maybe more than ever.
When Creamer missed the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open in July, she looked doomed in her bid to make the American team. It was her fourth missed cut in five starts. She had slipped to a career worst 127th in the Rolex world rankings and 105th on the LPGA money list. For the first time in her pro career, Creamer wasn’t qualified for the Ricoh Women’s British Open. She had to play her way in through a final qualifier in Scotland three days before the championship.
Creamer said she found something working with her swing coach, Gary Gilchrist, before heading to Scotland. She says it’s a swing key that’s working wonders, something linked to the changes they’ve been working on for two years now.
At the Ladies Scottish Open, Creamer tied for 13th. At the Women’s British Open, she tied for 16th.
“I think that was a really big confidence booster,” Creamer said. “I definitely have spent hours and hours and hours these last three, four months practicing.
“I feel great. I’m driving the ball well. I'm hitting my irons really well. I know I can make big putts whenever I need to. That's never been an issue. And I feel like I'm in total control of where I want to put the golf ball.”
That trip to Scotland didn’t change Inkster’s mind about making Creamer a captain’s pick. She left Creamer off the team, but apparently it did change Inkster’s mind about making her an alternate, a pivotal decision after Jessica Korda withdrew from the Solheim Cup last week with a forearm injury.
Creamer’s here, and it doesn’t matter how she got here. She’s relishing this chance to prove to herself that all the work’s going to pay off.
“Nobody believes in Paula more than this team,” Kerr said.
There’s a strong bond between Inkster and Creamer, and ultimately maybe that is why Creamer is here.
“I have a lot of faith and confidence in Paula,” Inkster said. “She reminds me a lot of myself, as far as heart and grit.”
Two years ago, Creamer was a controversial captain’s pick, with her form off. But Inkster sent Creamer out in the first foursomes match with Morgan Pressel, and the duo took a point from Europe’s best team, Suzann Pettersen and Anna Nordqvist. Inkster later sent Creamer out in the anchor match in Sunday singles, and Creamer delivered again in the historic American comeback. She defeated Germany’s Sandra Gal in Germany to complete the dramatic come-from-behind victory.
Creamer will be looking this week to prove she can make a difference again. Mostly, she’ll be looking to help the Americans win again.