WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN
Paula Creamer has won two events as an 18-year-old rookie on the LPGA Tour. Michelle Wie, above, a 15-year-old from Hawaii, has contended at majors this year. Both make their Women's British Open debuts tomorrow.
U.S. teens stage
Two of the hottest players entering this week's
LPGA major are Creamer, 18, and Wie, 15
By Robert Millward
SOUTHPORT, England » Call it the LPGA Teen Tour.
Two months after going through high school graduation, 18-year-old Paula Creamer won for the second time this year with an eight-shot victory in the Evian Masters last week. In her last event before she starts the 11th grade at Punahou, 15-year-old Michelle Wie is looking to build on her third runner-up finish this season.
The Women's British Open could be set to crown its first teenage champion -- unless, of course, 34-year-old Annika Sorenstam comes through.
The world's best women have arrived at Royal Birkdale for the 30th edition of the Weetabix Women's British Open, and fifth since it became a major on the LPGA Tour. It starts tomorrow on the 6,463-yard, par-72 links course that also is part of the men's British Open rotation.
Sorenstam will try to become only the fourth woman to win three majors in one year. But the spotlight is shared with emerging stars, like Wie and Creamer, who are making their British Open debuts.
Creamer is on the verge of making the U.S. Solheim Cup team and is third on the LPGA money list at $1.1 million. Wie is an amateur who has turned down paychecks totaling $530,000 this year -- that would place her 13th on the money list in just six tournaments.
Laura Davies won her only British Open in 1986 -- before Wie and Creamer were born. She believes so many young stars show that women's golf is stronger than ever.
"It doesn't get much better," Davies said. "At the U.S. Open, there was an 18-year-old, a 17-year-old, 15-year-old and I think another 17-year-old basically in contention, three out of four of them amateurs. Annika wasn't even in contention. And it had triple the (TV) ratings of the men's tournament that week."
Karen Stupples, who won last year's British Open for her first major in her sixth season as a pro, said the newcomers have the talent to make a big impact on the Royal Birkdale links.
"Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie are undoubtedly phenomenal talents," she said. "They are very fortunate that they are able to do it so young, to have the right coaching and right knowledge given to them at an early age.
"But it doesn't stop players like Laura, myself, Meg Mallon, Juli Inkster, Beth Daniel playing great golf as well."
Stupples, who stunned her rivals last year by starting her final round with an eagle and double eagle on two par-5s at Sunningdale, said experience could be vital in dealing with the tricky links course. Scores could go into the 80s if the wind blows. The forecast is for showers and thunderstorms.
"Sometimes it's just about survival; it doesn't have to be pretty golf but functional golf," Stupples said. "Maybe being a bit older and a little bit more patient, we might know a few more shots. But I wouldn't put anything past these young girls."
The field of 150 also includes 23-year-old Birdie Kim, the South Korean who halted Sorenstam's Grand Slam bid by winning the U.S. Women's Open with a bunker shot on the final hole that dropped for birdie. That gave her a two-shot victory over 17-year-old Morgan Pressel and 19-year-old Brittany Lang, neither of whom are at Birkdale.
Wie is playing her fourth major as a sponsor's exemption.
Australia's Karrie Webb is chasing her fourth British Open title. She won her first one 10 years ago at age 20, making her the youngest winner in tournament history.
That could change Sunday.