There’s no home-field advantage in golf.
In fact, you can make the argument that it’s one of the few sports where playing at home is a disadvantage.
Ask Tiger Woods. Yeah, he does pretty well in Orlando and San Diego, but he’s 0 for Riviera Country Club, the Los Angeles PGA Tour stop closest to the Cypress, Calif., home where he grew up. He has failed to win in 11 tries at Riviera.
That brings us to Paula Creamer, who’s back at home this week for the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge at Blackhawk Country Club in Danville, Calif., near her hometown in Pleasanton. She once said trying to win this event is like trying to win a major championship. She wants to win it that badly.
That’s the problem with home games in golf.
Trying too hard usually doesn’t work.
In three starts in her hometown event, Creamer’s failed to record a top-10 finish. That’s a pretty good indication of how out of sorts players can feel at home. In her nearly five seasons on tour, Creamer, an eight-time LPGA winner, has finished among the top 10 in 52 percent of her starts.
Creamer posted a 76 in the third round at Blackhawk Country Club last year and ended up tying for 19th.
She opened with a 77 there two years ago and tied for 11th.
She tied for 16th in her first start there three years ago.
Tour pros are creatures of routine. There are more distractions at home, more folks players want to see and please. There are more obligations. That messes up routine and makes for more pressure at home. Of course, there's typically greater joy in playing well at home.
“It’s always great to come back to a place where you can see your friends and your family, and, just, where you grew up,” Creamer said in her pre-tournament meeting with media this week. “I have a lot of memories here. I don’t get to come back here as much as I would like, so this is always a treat.”
A trick and a treat.
The trick’s blocking out what winning at home would mean.
South Florida’s Morgan Pressel knows the feeling. She was the hometown favorite in the season-ending ADT Championship in West Palm Beach, Fla., last year. Creamer said back then that she knew exactly what Pressel was feeling.
“When I go to Blackhawk, it feels like a U.S. Open,” Creamer said. “It feels like, not pressure, in itself, but you play in front of all the people that have supported you and gotten you to where you are today, just being part of your team, my family, and people I've grown up with. It's a different situation. There are a lot more demands that week. More media, local channels and things like that. It’s hard. I struggle every time. I play the golf course well, it's just kind of maintaining myself and not putting too much pressure on myself.”
A lot of young California girls who want to be the next Paula Creamer come out to this event.
“This is kind of where I became who I am,” she said. “I think that if people see that, and if people watch, it kind of gives them a little bit of hope in their lives.”
Creamer would relish breaking through at Blackhawk and winning for the first time this season. She has struggled this year with a mysterious stomach ailment, a thumb injury and a back injury. A victory at home would be soothing.
It’s not like tour pros never win at home.
Raymond Floyd won at Doral three times when he lived in Miami. Ben Hogan won five times at Colonial in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. Larry Mize won the Masters in his backyard.
Creamer left Pleasanton when she was 14 to elevate her game at the IMG Golf Academy and Pendleton School in Bradenton, Fla. She makes her home today in Isleworth, the same Windermere, Fla., community where Tiger Woods lives. Like most of us, though, a part of her will always reside in the hometown where she grew up.
“Just being back in Pleasanton is such a good feeling,” Creamer said. “You know, it's just so beautiful here, you're so lucky you've gotten to grow up here. It's absolutely gorgeous. And I am, I'm very lucky.”