Creamer Seizes Control as Ochoa Falters


2007 SemGroup ChampionshipTULSA, Okla. -- Paula Creamer made two long birdie putts to pull away from the field Saturday in the SemGroup Championship, only to drop two shots on the closing holes for the third straight day to give her challengers a chance.
But that small group chasing her doesnt include the player everyone expected to see.
Lorena Ochoa, going for her record-tying fifth straight LPGA Tour victory, lost momentum with back-to-back bogeys and wound up eight shots behind, needing the best comeback of her career.
I still think I can win, Ochoa said. I think Annika (Sorenstam) won before coming from 10 shots behind. It could happen.
It doesnt look likely, even with Creamer still trying to figure out how to stop making bogeys with the finish line in sights. A three-putt on the 16th and a bogey from the bunker on the 18th gave her a 2-under 69 and a two-shot lead over Juli Inkster.
When I was on the 15th green, my goal was to have a five-shot lead, Creamer said. But Im not going to complain.
Inkster, a 47-year-old with two daughters and seven majors, turned in a tournament-best 67 in more blustery conditions, ending her solid round with a 20-foot par putt on the 18th hole after trouble in the trees.
I got myself in position to at least give it a run, Inkster said.
Creamer was at 3-under 210 and will play in the final pairing Sunday with Inkster, at 212 the only other player under par.
Brittany Lang, who tied for second at the 2005 U.S. Womens Open while still an amateur, had a 71 to finish at 1-over 214, with Angela Stanford (71) and Leta Lindley (72) another shot behind.
Ochoa closed with six pars for an even-par 71 and was at 5-over 218, putting her in unfamiliar territory. She has won five of her six tournaments this year by a combined 37 shots.
Were looking at it from a different perspective, she said. Im going to be positive and hopefully do good tomorrow.
The way Creamer is playing, it might not matter.
But Creamer is playing well enough that even Ochoas best golf might not be good enough.
Coming off a playoff loss in Florida, the 21-year-old made birdies on some of the toughest holes and rarely had to work for pars. Her boost came from an unlikely birdie, some 50 feet below the hole at No. 9 that produced the loudest cheer at Cedar Ridge all week.
And she kept right on attacking, taking on the trees from the right rough at No. 11, holing a 35-foot birdie on the 12th and reaching the fringe of the par-5 14th in two to set up a simple birdie and expand her lead.
Now if she can only finish cleanly.
Creamer three-putted the 16th for the second straight day, and found the bunker on the 18th for the second straight day. The bogeys were the only flaws, though, and even Inkster said she would need a lot of help from Creamer.
Im going to need a lot of help from her, Inkster said. Shes just playing good golf right now. And Im going to have to play my A game out there, putting and hitting. But this golf course a lot of things can happen. And I know she knows that. Shes not the type to play it safe. Shes going to play aggressive. Shes going to do what she need to do to win.
Ochoa went 27 holes with par or worse until ending that drought on the par-3 second with a tee shot that stopped 4 feet from the hole. The momentum lasted all of one shot, a 3-wood through the fairway into a tough lie in the bunker, and Ochoa was lucky to escape with bogey. Her 8-iron came out so heavy that it was short of the pond, stopping in the shaggy slope.
Thats how her week has gone at Cedar Ridge'too few birdies, too many mistakes.
It was more of an up-and-down day for me, Ochoa said. At the same time, I was able to post my best round.
While she still has hopes, her tournament probably ended on the 11th hole.
Ochoa closed out the front nine with back-to-back birdies that charged up the gallery and put her a 3 over, creeping up the leaderboard. But her tee shot on the 11th settled into a slight depression right of the bunker, the ball below her feet. The wind was strong, from right to left, and the ball shot up into the air, carried right of the creek and bounced into the creek.
She made a superb chip to save bogey, then hit her approach well right on the 12th and had to make a 10-footer for bogey. It was her third straight round of back-to-back bogeys.
What really got me mad was the second shot on No. 12, Ochoa said. Its just playing with the wind so much, sometimes it slides your body and you end up hitting a really bad shot. We still have one more day to turn it around.
Ashli Bunch made it through another day without a birdie, the only player at Cedar Ridge without one. She shot a 75. Vicky Hurst, the 17-year-old from Florida, failed to make a birdie in her round of 73 that put her nine shots behind. Hurst used a local caddie the first two days, but replaced him Saturday with her mother.
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