OAKMONT, Pa. - Paula Creamer shed the title of being the best women's golfer to not win a major with a four-shot victory Sunday at the U.S. Women's Open.
Creamer shot 2-under-par 69 for a 3-under 281 total. Na Yeon Choi of South Korea shot 5-under 66 at a softened-up Oakmont Country Club to tie Suzann Pettersen of Norway for second place at 1-over 285.
"That question always lurked: 'How come you never won a major?' " said Creamer, who won despite a hyperextended left thumb she estimates is only 60 percent healed. "Now we never have to get asked that question again. It's kind of a big relief."
Limited to 40 practice shots before each round to lessen the pounding on the thumb that was surgically repaired in March, Creamer found the best possible way to limit the discomfort: take as few strokes as possible.
Creamer, 23, known as the Pink Panther for her all-pink attire, faded badly in the late rounds of the last two Women's Opens and she missed the cut at last week's Jamie Farr Classic, won by Choi. But she was as strong at Oakmont as her thumb is weak, with earlier rounds of 72, 70 and 70.
She had to be; after all, she punished that thumb by playing 52 holes during the final two days including 23 Sunday because of Friday's heavy rain that slowed down some of the fastest, trickiest greens in golf and created better scores.
"I was in pain, but I was trying to do everything to not think about it," Creamer said. "It shows you how much the mental side of golf can really take over."
Two weeks after Cristie Kerr won the LPGA Championship by 12 shots with domination, Creamer won with determination. Kerr, the world's top-ranked player, tried to charge with consecutive birdies on No. 2 and No. 3, but fell back with four bogeys in the next six holes. She tied for 17th.
"I played terrible, and Paula played great," Kerr said.
"She's the best 15-year-old I ever saw," Pettersen said.
Until Kerr won the LPGA and Creamer won the Women's Open, the United States had won only eight of the previous 39 majors.
Creamer, from Pleasanton, Calif., had four birdies and two bogeys, all but wrapping it up by hitting to within 10 feet out of the thick rough on the par-4 14th and dropping the putt for birdie. Only she didn't know for sure; she never looked at a leader board until the 18th.
She hit another exceptional mid-iron to 4 feet on the 442-yard 15th and made that, too.
Right about then, she sensed a major was finally hers.
"Without a doubt, I've matured over the last couple of months," said Creamer, so bored during her layoff that she attended the Masters as a spectator. "It was hard. I've prepared for this for the last three months and it makes everything so much better. [The adversity] made me more of an adult."
Creamer played only her fourth tournament since the operation and she made mechanical changes in her game because her right side is much stronger than her left. Forced to play 29 holes Saturday, she feared unwrapping her throbbing thumb because "it might explode."
Her game certainly didn't.