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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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

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Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.