OAKMONT, Pa. » One more day like this, and Paula Creamer will no longer be the best LPGA golfer who hasn’t won a major.
Creamer kept her game together as a dozen others were losing theirs on a grueling day at the U.S. Women’s Open yesterday, taking a three-shot lead over Wendy Ward that she hopes will hold up in the final round.
That, and her left thumb.
Creamer, who has eight top-10 finishes in majors at age 23 but has yet to win one, is playing in only her fourth tournament since sitting out four months to surgically repair a hyperextended joint. The injury is so painful she limits her practice shots because she can’t stand the constant pounding of her golf club striking the ground.
"I’ll probably sleep with an ice bag on," Creamer said. "I’m afraid to take the tape off — my thumb is going to explode out of it. But the more I think about making pars, the less the thumb bothers me."
Maybe that was the best way to prepare for the demanding Oakmont Country Club, whose stray shot-grabbing bunkers and tricky-to-read greens doomed the hopes of contender after contender on a day when play began at dawn and extended to sundown. Namely, stay off it as much as possible.
Hawaii golfers Stephanie Kono (78-76–154), Michelle Wie (82-76–158) and Kimberly Kim (79-84–163) failed to make the cut set at 152.
Creamer, who played 29 holes yesterday, is 1 under for the tournament with five holes remaining in a third round that will be completed this morning. The 37-year-old Ward, a four-time LPGA Tour winner, has only No. 18 to play. Suzann Pettersen is four back with four holes to go, while 15-year-old Alexis Thompson, Amy Yang and Brittany Lang are five back. Only Thompson completed the third round.
"You know, this was a tough day," Creamer said. "I got here at 5:30 this morning and it’s 9 now. That’s a lot of golf. On this course, I mean, 18 holes is enough."
Creamer, sixth in the last two U.S. Women’s Opens, played all but two holes of her 1-under 70 in the morning — the only below-par score among those completing the second round yesterday. She followed that by getting three birdies and two bogeys during the third round, with the second bogey coming on No. 13 just as the USGA sounded a horn halting play due to dwindling light.
"I played really consistent — I stuck to my game plan," Creamer said. "If I hit a lot of greens, I know birdies will come. I know every par I won’t lose ground, so I keep going with that mind-set. I was trying to stay at patient as I can."
All this only a weekend after she missed the cut in the Jamie Farr Classic.
The only other 70 of the day was by Thompson, who is playing in her fourth Women’s Open — her fourth! — despite not yet being 16 but only her second tournament as a pro. She is at 4-over 217.
Like most teenagers, Thompson is glad she gets to sleep in today.
"I’m really thankful I don’t have to come back at 7:30 to play for likely just a hole," said Thompson, whose father, Scott, is toting her bag.