Creamer back to work after wedding, honeymoon

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2015, 1:11 am

The adventure careens back to a familiar landscape for Paula Creamer next week with the LPGA season beginning in Ocala, Fla.

You thought that twisting, turning monster of a putt that won her the HSBC Women’s Champions in a playoff in Singapore was a thrilling turn last year for the 10-time LPGA winner? You don’t know the half of it. You should have seen her shooting the whitewater rapids on the Wairoa River in New Zealand a month ago.

The river pushes wildly through narrow, boulder-choked gorges, roaring toward Grade 5 rapids, some of the most harrowing whitewater experiences on the planet.

Apparently, this is Creamer’s idea of “settling down.” After her marriage to Derek Heath before Christmas, the couple whisked away to Bora Bora and then New Zealand on their honeymoon. The whitewater rapids experience was on Creamer’s bucket list of adventures to tackle in life. She wondered exactly why when the raft flipped, catapulting her and Derek into the swirling water.

“We didn’t even get to the Grade 5 rapids,” Creamer said. “We flipped on a Grade 3. Straight under water, under the boat. It was beyond terrifying, but we survived.”

Though they flipped 20 minutes into the trip, Creamer, Heath and their crew got back in their raft and braved on through the Grade 5s on an unforgettable two-hour adventure.

“I’ve checked it off my bucket list, and I won’t be doing it again anytime soon,” Creamer said.

The adventurous side trip on the honeymoon shouldn’t have surprised anyone who follows the couple. Creamer leaped out of an airplane and was skydiving when Heath proposed to her in a most unusual manner a year ago. He had the words “Paula, Marry Me?” arranged on the landing area below.

Creamer and Heath were married on Dec. 13 at Isleworth, where they make their home in Windermere, Fla. Morgan Pressel was the matron of honor with Creamer’s caddie, Colin Cann, serving as her special man of honor. Creamer’s long-time manager, Jay Burton, played Pacelbel ‘s Canon in D on the piano with a cello, flute and violin trio during the ceremony. The couple’s first dance at the reception was to Dara Maclean’s “Yours Forever.”

“It was a perfect day, everything I imagined and more,” Creamer said.

With the honeymoon behind her, with a new chapter unfolding in her life, Creamer, 28, is eager to get back to navigating the rough waters of professional golf.

Last year was full of thrills and spills on the course for Creamer, too. She rode exhilarating highs, and some maddening lows. She won for the first time in almost four years, since her U.S. Women’s Open victory at Oakmont. She did so in dramatic fashion, holing a 75-foot eagle putt to defeat Azahara Munoz in a playoff. It was part of a strong start to 2014. She had that victory and two T-3s among her first four tournaments.

After that sizzling start, Creamer struggled to get into contention the rest of the year, with just one other top-10. Ultimately, she finished 22nd on the money list, her lowest ranking in 10 seasons on tour. She saw her impressive streak of made cuts end at 82 when she missed the cut at Kingsmill. She also missed the cut in a major for the first time as a pro when she didn’t make the weekend at the LPGA Championship. Her iron play, which consistently ranks with the best on tour, wasn’t as sharp. Her first eight seasons, she never finished worse than seventh hitting greens in regulation. She sagged to 51st last year.

All of this led to Creamer slipping to No. 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, her lowest position since the Rolex rankings made their debut in 2006.

All of this highly motivates Creamer, who, obviously, had a lot on her mind with the December wedding.

“I started the year so strong, and I’m incredibly disappointed,” Creamer said. “But, I have to cut myself some slack. That’s hard for me to do, but getting married is a huge part of somebody’s life.”

While preparation for a life-changing event surely affected Creamer, there were swing changes at work, too. Wanting more distance, Creamer and her long-time coach, David Whelan, went to work on changing her swing with the driver. The downswing that long made her iron play so strong was negatively impacting her distance with the driver. They went to work getting her to swing more up on the ball with the driver.

“When you’re trying to improve one area, you can sacrifice another,” Whelan said. “It was always a gamble.”

That’s what happened with Creamer. Her release with the driver is different than her release with her irons.

“It can affect iron play,” Whelan said.

Whelan believes the swings are coming together, where Creamer can get more distance with her driver and still consistently knock down flagsticks with her iron play.

“She understands the separation now,” Whelan said. “She understands what we’re trying to do, and I think she’s back on track.”

Creamer, who is also adopting a new left-hand-low putting stroke, is eager to get the new season started.

“I’m ready,” Creamer said. “Because of the wedding and honeymoon, I’ve had to crunch time these last couple weeks, but I knew that was going to happen. I’ve been working really hard. My days have been longer than they’ve had to be in a normal offseason.”

Creamer went three weeks without touching a club through the wedding and honeymoon. After teeing it up at the Coates Golf Championship next week, she’ll play again the following week at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic. Though she won’t play the Women’s Australian Open to start the first overseas swing, she plans to play a busy early schedule.

If you’re wondering how marriage will affect Creamer, she has strong feelings about it. She believes it will make her a better player. She says Derek’s support is added strength. A former Air Force pilot, he was recently hired to fly for United Airlines. He’s in flight training.

“I do have so much I want to achieve,” Creamer said. “When I got back from the honeymoon, I was so excited. Talking to Derek, coming up with my goals this year, I’m definitely determined.”

Creamer said her goals include focusing on major championships, making this year’s U.S. Solheim Cup team and moving her world ranking back up. She’s also looking ahead to golf’s return to the Olympics in 2016.

She wants to represent the United States at Rio de Janeiro. To assure that, she needs to be among the top two Americans in the world rankings, though she can also make it by ranking among the top 15 in the world, as long as there aren’t four other Americans ahead of her.

“I want to do well in the majors” Creamer said. “That’s what I really want to focus on. When I’ve done that in the past, my game, all in all, is very solid.”

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(Not that) Jutanugarn shares lead with (not that) Ko

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 1:58 am

LOS ANGELES - A player eager for her first win and a rookie top the leaderboard at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. Lurking two shots back is a Hall of Famer.

Winless Moriya Jutanugarn overcame a poor start and birdied the 18th for a hard-earned 1-under 70 to tie rookie Jin Young Ko at 9 under on Saturday at Wilshire Country Club.

Ko shot a 66 in her bid to become the year's first two-time LPGA winner. She won the Women's Australian Open in February, her first victory as an official tour member after a successful run on the Korean LPGA circuit.

''I'm ready for win or top 10, so maybe tomorrow I will really focus on shot by shot,'' said Ko, who added an exclamation point to her golf bag for each of her wins on the KLPGA. ''I won 11 times, so if I win tomorrow, maybe I change to 12. I need more, I need every time motivation.''

Jutanugarn is trying to match younger sister Ariya as a tour champion. Seven-time winner Ariya was tied for 27th after a 72 in the third round.

Usually when one of the Thai sisters is in the lead, the other will watch when her round is finished.

''If she's not too lazy, she is probably going to come out,'' Moriya said about Ariya.

Playing in an all-Korean threesome, Hall of Famer Inbee Park was two shots back in third after a 69. Her birdie putt for a share of the lead on 18 slid just by the hole. The group drew a large contingent of Korean fans.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

''I kind of started off a little bad. I was able to come back strong, so I'm really happy with that,'' Park said. ''I left a few putts out there. The greens around this golf course are just really tough. You just don't know what's going to happen.''

Moriya Jutanugarn's round included a double bogey on the par-4 first hole and a bogey on the par-4 sixth. She eagled the par-4 14th after holing out from the fairway 93 feet away. The ball took once bounce and went in, eliciting a stunned look from Jutanugarn before she high-fived her caddie.

''Today was kind of a pretty rough day for me with not a very good start and like trying to come back,'' Jutanugarn said. ''I just try to play my game and be patient out there I think is the key.''

Jutanugarn, the second-round leader, read the break perfectly on a long putt to make birdie on 18 and share the lead with Ko.

Playing two groups ahead of Jutanugarn, Caroline Inglis also eagled the 14th from 180 yards. She briefly jumped up and down and smiled after three bogeys and a double bogey. She shot a 69 and was four shots back in a tie for sixth with Minjee Lee.

''It was like one bounce and then it like trickled in,'' Inglis said.

Aditi Ashok eagled 14 early in the round.

Ko did some scrambling of her own. Her ball found a sandy hazard on the 17th with a scoreboard and a winding creek in between her and the green 190 yards away. Her approach landed just off the green and she made par. Her round included six birdies and a bogey on 16.

Eun-Hee Ji (70) and American Marina Alex (72) were tied for fourth at 6 under.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng shot a 70 and was in a six-way tie for 12th at 2 under.

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Defending champs Singh, Franco take senior lead

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 12:15 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett.

''It was a tough day,'' Singh said. ''The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.''

Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course.

''We just paired well together,'' Toms said. ''I don't think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.''

Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

''Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,'' Singh said. ''That's all we can do.''

Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title.

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top.

''It's great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,'' Olazabal said. ''We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it's always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.''

Langer took the final-round forecast in stride.

''We've done it hundreds of times before and we'll probably do it again,'' Langer said. ''We'll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We're known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.''

Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock.

John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.

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Landry shares Valero lead, eyes first career win

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 11:15 pm

After coming up just short of a breakthrough win earlier this season, Andrew Landry has another chance to earn his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open.

Landry came within inches of winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, ultimately losing to Jon Rahm in a four-hole playoff. He struggled to find form in the wake of his close call, missing the cut in each of his four starts following his runner-up finish in Palm Springs.

But Landry took some time off to welcome his first child, Brooks, last month and he made it to the weekend in his first start back last week at the RBC Heritage, where he finished T-42. He made a move up the standings Saturday at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67, and at 13 under shares the lead with Zach Johnson heading into the final round.

"I just did everything really good," Landry told reporters. "I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat, and I had a couple bad putts that I didn't really make. I'm happy with it, it's a good 5-under round. Gets me in the final group tomorrow and we'll see what happens."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Landry started the day one shot off the pace and in the final group with Johnson and Ryan Moore, and at one point he took sole possession of the lead after birdies on three of his first six holes. Now he'll have another chance in the day's final tee time where he's grouped with Johnson and Trey Mullinax, who sits one shot back after firing a course-record 62 in the third round.

For Landry, it's another opportunity to break into the winner's circle, and it's one for which he feels prepared after coming so close three months ago.

"I mean, I don't want to go too deep into it because I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but I just believe in myself. There's no other explanation for it," Landry said. "You can totally get out here and play with Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, two top players in the world, and you can go out there and fold under pressure or you can learn a lot.

"Zach's always been a role model to me the way he plays golf, I feel like we have very similar games, and it's just going to be fun tomorrow getting to play with him again."

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Z. Johnson, Landry share 54-hole Texas Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 10:56 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson birdied the par-5 18th Saturday at the Valero Texas Open for a share of the third-round lead with Andrew Landry, a stroke ahead of record-setting Trey Mullinax.

Johnson shot a 4-under 68, holing a 10-footer on 18 to match Landry at 13-under 203 at TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks. Landry birdied the 16th and 17th in a 67.

Johnson won the event in 2008 and 2009, the last two times it was played at LaCantera. The 42-year-old Iowan is trying to win for the first time since the 2015 British Open.

''I've got 18 holes to get to that point,'' Johnson said. ''I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side and that was give myself opportunities on every hole. I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well, so it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch.''

The 30-year-old Landry is winless on the tour.

''I'm a good putter and I just need to give myself a lot of opportunities tomorrow like I did today,'' Landry said. ''I'll be looking forward to tomorrow.''

Mullinax had a course-record 62. He played the back nine in 7-under 29, going 6 under on the last five with eagles on the par-5 14th and 18th and birdies on 16 and 17. He also birdied Nos. 10 and 12 and bogeyed 11.

''It's probably one of the best rounds I've ever had,'' Mullinax said. ''To go out there and shoot 62 on a hard golf course is really good.''

Johnson played the front nine in even par with two birdies and two bogeys. He birdied Nos. 11, 14, 15 and 18 on the back nine.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

''Different wind today early on, misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above,'' Johnson said. ''But truthfully, my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts, but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities especially on the back side.''

Landry had a bogey-free round.

''I just did everything really good,'' Landry said. ''I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat.''

Ryan Moore was two strokes back at 11 under after a 70. Sean O'Hair had a 65 to join 2015 champion Jimmy Walker (67), Chris Kirk (68) and 2013 winner Martin Laird (69) at 9 under.

''I just feel like I'm getting closer and closer to playing better and better golf, more solid golf, putting rounds together,'' Walker said. ''I'm excited for the opportunity tomorrow.''

Mullinax has made 42 of 44 putts from inside 10 feet this week.

''They just kind of remind me of greens from home,'' Mullinax said. ''My caddie, David (Flynn), has been reading them really well. We trusted each other on our reads and I've been hitting good putts. Been working hard on putting on the weeks off that I've had so it's good to see some results.''

The 25-year-old former Alabama player chipped in for the eagle on 14 and the birdie on the par-3 16th.

''It was just a little bit down the hill,'' he said about the 16th. ''All you had to do was just land it just past that little light grass spot. My caddie told me just read it like a putt, so I tried to just read it like a putt and it went in.''

On 18, he hit a 3-iron from 255 yards to 15 feet to set up his eagle putt. He broke the course record of 63 set by Matt Every in 201 and matched by Laird in 2013. The tournament record is 60 at LaCantera, by Bart Bryant in 2004 and Johnson in 2009.