Pain and Suffering and Victory

By Randall MellJuly 12, 2010, 5:26 am

2010 U.S. Women

OAKMONT, Pa. – When Dr. Thomas Hunt cut open Paula Creamer’s left thumb three-and-a-half months ago, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

Before the surgical procedure, he told Creamer’s parents in his Birmingham, Ala., office that it would take a little more than an hour to tighten up stretched ligaments.

More than three hours later, after reconstructing her thumb, he told Paul and Karen Creamer what they already knew.

He told them their daughter must be one fierce little competitor with a hell of a threshold for pain.

“He asked, `How is it possible that she played golf for seven months with a thumb like that?’” Paul said.

Papa and Mama Creamer knew what the doctor surmised before asking.

It’s the same answer the Creamers will offer if you ask them how it is their daughter won the U.S. Women’s Open Sunday with that reconstructed thumb swelling so profusely that it was straining to break the support tape wrapping it.

Or if you ask them how it is she tamed brutish Oakmont Country Club just seven weeks after she began hitting golf balls in her comeback from the surgery.

“Determination, willpower, refusal to quit,” Paul Creamer says. “That’s the blend with Paula.”

Dr. Hunt could see those qualities when he cut open Creamer’s thumb in late March. He could see them realizing she was playing golf for more than half a year with a torn ulnar collateral ligament, a torn volar plate and a damaged tendon.

Paula Creamer
Creamer withstood Oakmont's challenges to capture her first career major. (Getty Images)

Anyone watching Creamer play the 12th hole Sunday could see what won her this championship.

After hitting her approach into the green there, she hopped off her shot, howling and yelping in pain. It was the first time she let anyone see the pain like that this week.

Her caddie, Colin Cann, said Creamer felt jolts like that more than once in shooting 2-under-par 69 Sunday marching to her 3-under 281 total.

“She’s just used to hiding it well,” he said. “That one there, it really shot up her arm.”

Doctors told Creamer she couldn’t hurt the thumb any worse playing this summer, so she returned to tournament golf four weeks ago. She did so determined to get herself ready for Oakmont knowing her thumb wouldn’t be fully healed yet. She did so because she hated missing the first major of her career in April withdrawing from the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She did so because she desperately wanted to make the U.S. Women’s Open her first major championship triumph.

“I believed I could do this,” Creamer said. “I believed I could do this when I had a cast on my hand. What I just kept thinking about was `Oakmont, Oakmont, Oakmont.’ And here we are. It’s just amazing.”

Creamer, 23, arrived at Oakmont with eight LPGA titles but no majors among them. She was asked about the hole in her resume upon arriving at every major the last four or five years.

“We never have to get asked that question again,” Creamer said.

Creamer won this week with a brilliant all-around game. She showed no weaknesses. She ranked third in fairways hit, eighth in greens in regulation, third in putting and was a respectable 47th in driving distance.

That isn’t what won her the championship, though. Not really. They’re just the byproducts of the willful spirit that won this.

The journey that ended with her hoisting the U.S. Women’s Trophy began long before she stepped foot on Oakmont. There were lessons losing the U.S. Women’s Open at Interlachen two years ago and at Saucon Valley last year. A shot off the lead after 54 holes at Interlachen, she closed with a disappointing 78. A stroke off the lead going into the third round at Saucon Valley, she shot herself out of contention with a 79. She put up those scores in the final groups.

There were lessons learned losing, but there were even larger lessons not even playing.

Twenty months ago, Creamer contracted that mysterious stomach malady. She lost more than 10 pounds and endured great angst visiting specialist upon specialist trying to find out what was wrong with her. She never got an answer with the malady plaguing her for almost a year. And with the stomach pains finally leaving her last summer, she hurt her thumb hitting a shot out of the rough at the Wegmans LPGA. For nine months, she couldn’t shake the pain. There was a mystery to that injury with Creamer visiting four hand specialists.

“We explored every possibility,” Paul said. “We left no stone unturned.”

The hand specialists all agreed that she was suffering from stretched ligaments. She was prescribed rest and rehab. So Paula rested and rehabbed, but she couldn’t shake the injury.

The family visited the Louisville Slugger factory to have a special glove made to help her. It didn’t work. They visited the Philadelphia Phillies, where the training staff made special splints for her. Those didn’t work either.

Through it all, the angst of not knowing what was wrong hurt Creamer as much as the pain.

“There was a time before my surgery where I thought, `Oh my gosh, I may never play golf again,” Paula said.

With the thumb pain unrelenting, Paul and Karen saw what nobody else did.

Before the surgery, they saw their daughter’s fear.

“All the doctors had said the same thing,” Paul said. “They said avoid surgery at all costs.

“It was an emotional time. It really was. She put her head on my shoulder one night at home and cried because she didn’t know if she would ever play again.”

The U.S. Women’s Open, more than any other major championship in women’s golf, is about pain and suffering. In the end, nobody was more prepared to endure the punishment Oakmont would dish out than Creamer. Nobody was more determined to overcome it.

Getty Images

Kang 'going with the flow,' one back of A. Jutanugarn

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 9:43 am

SHANGHAI – Ariya Jutanugarn shot a 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai tournament on Thursday.

The Thai player had six birdies in a bogey-free round, including three straight on Nos. 4, 5, and 6.

''I always have so much fun when I play in Asia,'' said Jutanugarm, who added her key was ''just not to expect anything. Just go out have fun and enjoy everything.''

Sei Young Kim and Danielle Kang (both 67) were one shot back, with six other players only two shots off the lead.

Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

Kang credited her improved play to new coach Butch Harmon.

''We just kind of simplify the game a lot,'' the American said. ''Just trying to calm it down and get back to how I used to play. Just more feel golf. Thinking less mechanics and going with the flow.''

Kang tied for third last week at the KEB Hana Bank championship in Incheon, South Korea.

''Today's round went very smooth,'' Kang said. ''Coming off very good momentum after last week, and I've been hitting the ball really well, playing great. I've just been trusting my game and just keep giving myself birdie chances. They kept rolling in.''

Getty Images

Sharpshooting Reavie (68) leads tough CJ Cup

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 9:34 am

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Chez Reavie overcame cool, windy conditions for a 4-under 68 and a one-stroke lead after the first round of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges on Thursday.

In the breezy conditions, the back nine of the course posed the most difficulty, but the 36-year-old American made two birdies and negotiated it in 35 after starting on the 10th tee, and then picked up three shots on his final nine.

Danny Willett and Si Woo Kim shot 69 while the large group at 70, and tied for fourth, included Ian PoulterNick Watney and Michael Kim.

Brooks Koepka, playing in his first tournament since being voted PGA Tour Player of the Year, shot 71 and was in a group three strokes behind and tied for 11th, which included Paul Casey and Hideki Matsuyama.

Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Defending champion Justin Thomas had a 73, as did Jason Day, Ernie Els and J.B. Holmes.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

Marc Leishman, who won last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia, and Adam Scott had 75s.

Reavie's only PGA Tour win came at the 2008 Canadian Open, and he finished second in back-to-back starts last year in Phoenix and Pebble Beach, losing at Phoenix in a playoff.

''It was a great day, I hit the ball really well,'' Reavie said of Thursday's round. ''The wind was blowing really hard all day long so you had to really start the ball well and keep it out of the wind. Luckily, I was able to do that.''

Despite the windy conditions, Reavie found all 14 fairways off the tee and hit 15 out of 18 greens in regulation, which he felt was the key to a good score.

''It's tough because once you get above the hole with this wind, it's really hard to chip it close,'' he said. ''The more greens you can hit, the better and that was key to my game.''

Willett, who has struggled with injuries and form since winning the 2016 Masters and has dropped to No. 342 in the world, made five birdies and two bogeys in his 69. Willett has just one top-five finish since finishing second in the Italian Open in September 2016.

Having committed to play on the PGA Tour by taking up membership this season, Willet said it was important to make a quick start to the season.

''I've done two tours for a couple of years, and it's very difficult,'' Willett said. ''We committed to play on the PGA Tour, to play predominantly over here this year and next. It's nice to kind of get in and get some points early if you can.''

The second of three PGA Tour events in three weeks in Asia has a 78-player field and no cut. Only 19 players broke par on Thursday.

Getty Images

Koepka takes edge over Thomas in race for world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:50 am

Brooks Koepka got the inside track against Justin Thomas in their head-to-head battle this week for world No. 1.

Koepka shot 1-under 71 on Thursday at the CJ Cup, while Thomas shot 1-over 73.

Chez Reavie leads after 18 holes at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea, following a 4-under 68.

Koepka, currently world No. 3, needs to win this week or finish solo second [without Thomas winning] in order to reach the top spot in the rankings for the first time in his career. Thomas, currently No. 4, must win to reclaim the position he surrendered in June.

One week after 26 under par proved victorious in Malaysia, birdies weren’t as aplenty to begin the second leg of the PGA Tour’s Asian swing.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

In chilly, windy conditions, Koepka and Thomas set out alongside one another – with Sungjae Im (73) as the third – on the 10th hole. Koepka bogeyed his first hole of the day on his way to turning in even-par 36. Thomas was one worse, with two bogeys and a birdie.

On their second nine, Koepka was steady with two birdies and a bogey to reach red figures for the day.

"I felt like I played good. I hit some good shots, missed a couple putts early and kind put myself in a little bit of trouble on the back nine, my front, but rallied pretty nicely," Koepka said. "I felt like I found a bit of rhythm. But it's a difficult day, anything under par, level par is a good score out there today. I'm pleased with it."

Thomas, however, had two birdies and a double bogey on his inward half. The double came at the par-4 fourth, where he four-putted. He nearly made up those two strokes on his final hole, the par-5 ninth, when a wild approach shot [as you can see below] traversed the contours of the green and settled 6 feet from the hole. But Thomas missed the short eagle putt and settled for birdie.

Getty Images

Watch: Thomas' approach takes wild ride on CJ Cup green

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:17 am

Two over par with one hole to play in Round 1 of the CJ Cup, Justin Thomas eyed an eagle at the par-5 ninth [his 18th].

And he nearly got it, thanks to his ball beautifully navigating the curves of the green.

Thomas hit a big draw for his second shot and his ball raced up the green's surface, towards the back, where it caught the top of ridge and funneled down to within 6 feet of the hole.

Unfortunately for Thomas, the defending champion, he missed the eagle putt and settled for birdie and a 1-over 73.