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Friday, April 5, 2013
Paula Creamer still has sights set on No. 1

By Melissa Isaacson

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Paula Creamer sounded like hell.

Her voice was hoarse, her eyes watery and a miserable cold was only the half of it.

"I'm definitely sick," Creamer said after following an opening-round 74 with a 68 Friday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, an outing that left her tied for 12th, 5 strokes behind leader Inbee Park. "My grandma passed away [Sunday], and I'm just not sleeping and my body kind of shut down. Last night was a rough night but other than that. …"

Other than that, the 26-year-old American played the final 13 holes Friday in 5 under.

Other than that, there are still the aftereffects from a car accident that left Creamer and her caddie with minor injuries (Creamer with moderate whiplash and a sore shoulder) following a five-car pileup on their way to the Bangkok Airport after the Honda LPGA Thailand event in late February.

And other than that?

"It's 100 percent me," Creamer said.

She was talking about the fact that while she has had nine LPGA victories, including one major -- the 2010 U.S. Women's Open -- after returning from major thumb surgery that year, she has not won in 33 months. She has had 17 top-10 finishes in that time.

"I've gone through a lot the last two years just recovering from surgery, recovering from a lot of different things," she said.

The death of two grandparents over the past year and a month has been particularly tough. Her beloved grandfather Thomas Creamer, whom she called "Pops," was 94 when he passed away in March last year.

"My grandfather and I were incredibly close," Creamer said of the World War II veteran. "He was amazing, one of the most amazing men I've ever met in my life."

When Creamer lost her grandmother Florence Stanton five days ago after a battle with Parkinson's disease, it was another emotional blow.

"She loved watching and was a huge fan of mine," Creamer said. "It didn't matter if I shot 85 or 65. … She would come out here to the West Coast events. So yeah, it's hard. It's never easy losing someone that you're close to.

"They have the best seat in the house now. They're walking the fairways with me."

Creamer will walk the fairways this weekend, as she does so often, as one of the favorites. The 10th-ranked player in the world, Creamer has had 85 top-10 finishes in her career, including seven top-five finishes in 2011, three in 2012 and one so far this year.

"This week is up for anybody," she said. "It's a tournament where you can be right out in the lead the first couple of days, and when the weekend hits, you never see the leader."

Among the other Americans in the field, Lizette Salas is tied for second at 138, and Michelle Wie, Cristie Kerr and Jessica Korda are tied with Creamer. No. 1-ranked Stacy Lewis shot 71 and is tied for 28th.

Creamer joined the tour at age 17 and won her first tournament a week before her 18th birthday to become the LPGA's second-youngest winner and create the sort of expectations foisted upon only a select few.

She has not given up on the idea of being No. 1. Standing in the back of the press tent during a Lewis news conference this week, Creamer said she admired the fellow American's style.

"Stacy is a great player and a fighter," Creamer said. "I like people that grind and never quit. She's raising the bar for golf. It was only a matter of time when an American was going to step up. She deserved it.

"[But] it's hard because obviously that's where I want to be. I want to be the No. 1 American, the No. 1 player in the world. At the same time, I have to take care of my own business. She's making me work harder."