Paula Creamer is back in the pink.
The 23-year-old from Pleasanton known as the Pink Panther, playing for the first time since left thumb surgery in March, was in the hunt most of the way before fading down the stretch to finish seventh in the Shoprite LPGA Classic on the Bay Course at Dolce Seaview Resort in Galloway, N.J.
“My thumb is feeling it,” said Creamer, who has won eight times on the LPGA Tour. “It’s tired. This is a lot of golf for me that I haven’t been able to do, and that’s why we’re out here, to know what I have to do.
“I have to kind of overcome this whole thing and take it tournament by tournament. And you know, I feel pretty good considering what’s happened. I can only take confidence away from this week.”
Ai Miyazato of Japan shot 66-67-64–197, 16-under par, and collected $225,000, to win by two strokes over M.J. Hur of South Korea, who finished at 67-64-68 199.
By claiming her fourth LPGA Tour victory of the season and fifth overall, winning for the 21st time in her career, the 25-year-old Miyazato climbed to No. 1 in the Women’s World Golf Rankings.
“When I started playing in the States, that’s when I really started thinking about being No. 1, and that became a dream of mine, especially watching Annika (Sorenstam) and Lorena Ochoa play,” said Miyazato, who birdied the last three holes. “And now that I am No. 1, I still can’t believe it.
“I’ve got to do so many things last couple years. But when I played four years ago, I played with Annika in the last group, and that made me really nervous, and but right now I have confidence to play with my game. I have the confidence now that I didn’t have back then.”
Inbee Park of South Korea was third at 66-68-67–201, and Katherine Hull of Pepperdine and Australia wound up at 70-63-69–202 to tie for fourth with Suzann Pettersen of Norway, who finished at 67-69-66–202, and Hee-Won Han of South Korea, a resident of San Diego, who came in at 67-67-68–202.
Anna Nordqvist of Arizona State and Sweden tied for 12th at 70-68-67–205, Yani Tseng of Taiwan and Beaumont tied for 14th at 67-70-69–206, and Pat Hurst of San Leandro and San Jose State shot 72-70-65–207 to tie for 16th with Azahara Munoz of Arizona State and Spain, who wound up at 67-74-66–207.
Amanda Blumenherst of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Duke totaled 68-74-67–209 and tied for 22nd with Jennifer Rosales of USC and the Philippines, who wound up at 71-69-69–209,
Juli Inkster of Los Altos Hills and San Jose State, who finished at 69-71-69–209, and Jane Park of Beaumont and UCLA, who came in at 69-71-69–209.
Also in that tie for 22nd were Candie Kung of Fountain Valley and USC at 70-69-70–209, Natalie Gulbis of Citrus Heights and the University of Arizona at 65-73-71–209, and Cristie Kerr of Scottsdale, Ariz., at 68-69-72–209.
Michelle Wie of Stanford and Honolulu shot 74-69-68–211 and tied for 46th with Grace Park of Arizona State and South Korea, who finished at 67-76-68–211, and
Mhairi McKay of Stanford and Scotland totaled 72-69-71–212 to tie for 53rd with Christina Kim of San Jose and DeAnza College in Cupertino, who came in at 71-70-71– 212.
Jill McGill of San Diego and USC posted a score of 73-70-70–213 and tied for 59th with Wendy Ward of Arizona State and Edwall, Washington, who shot 71-70-72–213, while Paige Mackenzie of the University of Washington and Yakima, Wash., tied for 72nd at 69-74-74–217.
Creamer, who wears at least some pink in every round even if it is only a ribbon, took the lead for a while when she finished early on Saturday and was in the mix until she made two bogeys on the back nine on Sunday as Miyazato heated up and pulled away.
“I mean, geez, if someone was going to say you’re going to play in the lead group in your first tournament back out in (four months), I would take it in a heartbeat,” said Creamer, who played with her thumb wrapped.
“To have a chance to win on Sunday and to get those nerves out, to get back into that competitive mode on the last day is something that I would have been grateful for if somebody told me that last week. I didn’t win, but I played great.”
It was almost like she never left.
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