OAKMONT, Pa.– Maybe Paula Creamer discovered the secret to playing Oakmont Country Club. Don’t practice as much as usual so as not to get discouraged by the course’s renowned toughness.
Creamer had the only sub-par round of the day to tie Sakura Yokomine for the lead as the rain-delayed second round of the U.S. Women’s Open concluded Saturday.
Creamer played all but two holes of her 1-under 70 on Saturday, while Yokomine finished up her second straight 71 by playing 15 holes. Both were set to begin the third round later Saturday.
Yokomine and Creamer were one shot ahead of LPGA Championship winner Cristie Kerr and Brittany Lang, both of whom finished their second rounds before heavy rains halted play Friday.
Christina Kim, who also finished up Friday, Sophie Gustafson and Suzann Pettersen were two shots off the lead.
While the rain made 108-year-old Oakmont softer, it didn’t make it easier. Of the nearly 100 golfers who finished up their rounds Saturday, only Creamer made it into the red numbers on the scoreboard.
“The bunkers were fine,” Creamer said. “I know they were all under water (Friday). I was in a lot of ‘em and they were all pretty good.”
Creamer finished sixth in each of the last two U.S. Women’s Opens but has played in only three LPGA tournaments this year because of a stretched ligament in her left thumb. The injury is painful and often forces her to hit most or all of her practice shots off a tee to avoid the constant jarring that occurs when a golf club strikes the ground.
“I may not hit as many (practice) balls just to save my thumb,” Creamer said, referring to her preparation for the third round.
Creamer had three birdies in four holes to finish up her front nine, but immediately gave two shots back with a poor drive on the 440-yard, par 4 10th hole that led to a double bogey. She also bogeyed the 602-yard, par 5 12th but rallied with birdies on No. 13 and No. 17.
“I came back strong from that (double bogey),” Creamer said.
Yakomine hasn’t finished better than a ninth-place tie in any LPGA Tour event but qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open by being the leading money winner last year on the Japan LPGA Tour.
With Oakmont’s treacherously fast greens slowed a bit by Friday’s rain, Yakomine took advantage by dropping a 45-foot birdie putt on the par 4 14th.
“The greens were pretty good – the ball stopped,” she said.
Those at or near the top of the leaderboard weren’t scheduled to begin the third round until late afternoon, meaning they would play until darkness halted play and finish up the round Sunday morning.
Kerr, Lang and Kim were among those who will play only 12 holes or fewer Saturday, compared to 36 for some golfers who hadn’t begun their rounds when play was suspended Friday.