- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Paula Creamer still plays with a bandage. What she no longer plays with is a burden.

Even though Creamer won’t turn 24 until a week from Thursday, after she returns from Royal Birkdale and the final LPGA Tour major of the year, few other players so young have received so much scrutiny for failing to win a major.

At least that’s one question she won’t face this week at the Women’s British Open.

“No, I’m sure it will be, ‘Do you want to win two in a row?’” Creamer said with an easy laugh just four days after her U.S. Women’s Open victory at Oakmont.

“I feel like my whole career, it’s always been about majors,” she said. “That was the one thing I didn’t have. And now that I do, I only want more. It’s like opening a can of worms. I can’t wait to play the British Open, because I know what it takes to win.”

Creamer endured some tough lessons along the way.

Three times she was poised to win the U.S. Open, the biggest stage in her sport, only to fall apart with bad swings or a bad decision. As an 18-year-old rookie, Creamer was one shot out of the lead going into the final round at Cherry Hills in 2005 when she closed with a 79. Two years ago, she was one shot behind and in the final group when she shot 41 on the front nine at Interlachen and had to rally for a 78.

Last year at Saucon Valley was the toughest to take. She can live with a bad swing. This was a bad decision. One shot behind going into the third round, she tried to drive the 10th green and wound up making triple bogey, sending her to a 79 and ending her hopes.

But she learned, just as Lorena Ochoa did before her.

On what is reputed to be the hardest golf course in America, with her left thumb bandaged from reconstructive surgery that kept her out four months, Creamer stuck to a conservative plan she cooked up with swing coach David Whelan. She never buckled until she had a four-shot victory at Oakmont.

That gives Creamer nine victories and a major. She has played on three winning Solheim Cup teams, losing only twice in 14 matches. That’s not a bad record for someone still only 23.

By her own admission, however, Creamer is an “old 23.”

She won her first LPGA Tour event a week before going through high school graduation, and in her first Solheim Cup as an 18-year-old, she crushed Laura Davies (7 and 5) in an opening singles match that set the tone. Off the course, she is one of the most marketable players on the LPGA Tour. Creamer has had to learn how to fit in with business executives at corporate outings.

“I think I am older than my age,” she said. “I had to grow up pretty fast. There are times when I’m a young 23, but on the golf course, I’ve definitely matured much faster than my age. But there’s still so much I have to learn.”

Greatness in women’s golf doesn’t wait very long.

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