JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
A strong finish allowed Paula Creamer to pass Jeong Jang to win the Fields Open at Ko Olina.
Creamer steals the Fields
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At the end of the first day of the $1.3 million Fields Open in Hawaii, Paula Creamer emphasized how she closed her round with three consecutive birdies to put herself near the top of the leaderboard. She said how important it is to finish your round strong so the next day you have a positive feeling.
Well, the plane ride to Singapore today to the next LPGA Tour event is going to be a good one for Creamer and her family after she turned the trick again yesterday to win her second LPGA Tour event in Hawaii in as many years.
The top-ranked American tracked down Jeong Jang with birdies at Nos. 16 through 18 to win her fifth LPGA tournament and pocket the first-place check of $195,000. Her final-round 66 dropped her to 16-under 200 to beat Jang (69) by one and Australian Lindsey Wright (67) by two. World No. 2 Annika Sorenstam finished fourth (68).
"It was a great finish, it really was," Creamer said. "Just how everything kind of unfolded through the last five holes, there were a lot of birdies being made. It was fun and exciting. I'll always remember this finish."
Jang said she didn't feel that sad because she didn't lose it; Creamer just went out and sealed the deal over the closing holes.
"You know, she's a good putter," Jang said. "And when she has that feeling, she's going to make (them) all."
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JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Paula Creamer smiled as her large gallery cheered her walk to the 18th green yesterday.
With Jeong Jang holding on like a small child grasping her mother's hand, Paula Creamer ripped away the $1.3 million Fields Open in Hawaii tournament yesterday with a birdie at the last to capture her second event in Hawaii in as many years.
Creamer trailed by two with three to play, but birdied the final three holes in dramatic fashion to close with a 66 and finish at 16-under 200 to capture the fifth LPGA Tour event of her young career.
"The last three holes have always been something that my dad and I have talked about," Creamer said. "Some people it's four, some people it's two. For me, it's the last three holes and I finished strong today. That's very exciting for me, for confidence. It's good. It's fun."
Jang was having a little fun herself before Creamer stole the show. Buoyed by back-to-back birdies at Nos. 14 and 15, Jang appeared in position to win for the first time since June 2006, but it wasn't meant to be. She closed with three pars to finish in second at 15-under 201. Australian Lindsey Wright managed a 67 to land alone in third at 14-under 202.
Annika Sorenstam, who had a double bogey and bogey over the closing nine, still managed fourth with a 68 for a 54-hole total of 12-under 204. Several times she closed within one of the leaders down the stretch, but didn't have enough in her tank to win the first two events of the 2008 season.
Instead, this one belonged to the Pink Panther, who hasn't been in the pink since coming to Hawaii two weeks ago. Battling flu-like symptoms for 10 days, Creamer climbed out of bed the last two rounds to play some of her best golf in recent memory. She hit 42 of 56 greens in regulation and had only two bogeys in three days, including none yesterday.
She opened with two birdies at the first and third holes, before stringing together 10 consecutive pars leading to the 14th, where she trailed Jang by only one. Both birdied the short par 5, then Jang almost holed her second shot at the 15th for a tap-in birdie to take the lead by two and put Creamer in a must-birdie situation.
"I just kept trying to tell myself to stay patient, the putts are going to fall, they're going to fall," Creamer said. "When we're on 15, she makes birdie and I make par and I'm two shots back, I'm thinking, the putts gotta fall pretty soon, you only have three left."
Decked out in traditional final-round pink, Creamer sank birdie putts of 12 and 20 feet on 16 and 17 to draw even, then hit a perfect 6-iron at the 18th from 164 yards to within 6 feet to put Jang behind her pink golf ball.
Jang responded with a shot that landed on the front fringe guarding the green, but missed her 30-footer for birdie, clearing the way for Creamer.
She sank the 6-footer, raised both her arms in subdued triumph, then walked over to the back of the green to watch Jang knock down her 4-footer for par. As Jang lined up her final putt, Creamer mouthed the word 'wow' to herself, then accepted a hug from caddie Colin Cann.
Jang said afterward that 4-footer reminded her of a putt she missed at the Pinx Cup in December that cost South Korea the championship to rival Japan.
"I don't know, you guys know the story? We were tied and they picked five players, and they play one each, hole by hole, one by one. I was the third person to go in playoff and I missed that 3-foot putt and we lost it."
This time, she sank the 4-footer for par and the $119,296 that went with it.
When the media walked in she asked, "Was I the only one in second?" She was.
It didn't remove all the sadness Jang was feeling for having the trophy snatched from her hands, but it helped.
"I played really good today, I think," Jang said. "You know, I never think about, 'OK, this is mine.' Because she keep trying and trying and she missed by this much (holding her index finger and thumb an inch apart). I know she's going to be good, and I just need to make my birdies. But I didn't do it, so it wasn't mine this time."
That was reserved for Creamer, who left with her parents today for Singapore to play in an inaugural $2 million event. But as they depart Hawaii, she will have fond memories after winning here twice on two different courses in two years.
"I better live here or something," Creamer said. "Who knows? No, I just guess I like Hawaii. This is the kind of grass I practice on and that kind of thing, so maybe it's the confidence-wise. But I don't know, I really like it here."