Nineteen-year-old Paula Creamer - perhaps the most polished member of the LPGA's much publicized youth movement - won't have it easy this week as she tries to capture her first major championship. Creamer walked into her afternoon news conference yesterday with her right wrist wrapped in a bandage, and admitted that she's been playing in pain recently.
"I went and got an MRI and an X-ray this morning," Creamer said. "I couldn't play [Tuesday]. My tendons and ligaments aren't torn, so that's good. I just have a sprained ligament. Overuse, they think. It's just getting really swollen and that causes the pain."
Creamer doesn't generate quite the same amount of hype as fellow teenage phenom Michelle Wie, but one can pretty easily argue that, right now at least, she's the superior player. In her rookie season on the LPGA Tour last year, Creamer won twice and had 11 top-10 finishes in just 24 events. When the World Golf Rankings came out in 2005, Creamer was ranked second, trailing only nine-time major winner Annika Sorenstam.
She needs to stay out of the long rough at Bulle Rock, however, if she wants to have any chance this week. Even more so than the rest of the field.
"When I go from wet grass to firm grass, it really agitates my wrist," Creamer said. "It's pretty wet compared to what I was practicing on in Florida last week, and that just destroyed it. I have really weak wrists to begin with and the muscles aren't very strong."
This is the third time Creamer says she's had to deal with this kind of injury, including once last year at the Wegmans Rochester, where she finished second to Lorena Ochoa. She said she realizes now she needs to commit to a strength program to prevent it from being a long-term problem.
"I asked the doctor today, 'If it bothers me, is it going to ruin my career if I play this week?' " Creamer said. "They said no, just can I fight through the pain. ... There are several other athletes that have played hurt, so I think that I can manage this. It's just another thing I have to fight through."
Most LPGA players are so focused once they get to the golf course, the last thing on their minds is what's going on in the maintenance shed. But not Ochoa. Ochoa, the LPGA's leading money winner this year, usually makes it a weekly tradition to walk down to the maintenance shed and talk with some of the workers, many of whom share her Mexican heritage. She said yesterday she hasn't yet gotten a chance to do it this week, but hopes to over the next few days.
"Usually it's something we both do when I get there," said Ochoa, who grew up in Guadalajara. "They come and say, 'Hey, Lorena, we've been waiting for you. How are you doing? How are you feeling? The course is in good shape.' I haven't had any close communication with any Mexican so far, but I know there are some out there. So hopefully, they'll come say hi and I'll be happy to spend time talking to them."
It's something Ochoa has tried to do more and more recently, especially as Mexican immigration has became a hot button issue in the United States this past year.
"I just kind of say, 'Thank you for all your hard work,' " Ochoa said. "They work extremely hard to get the course ready. ... There [are] a lot of good people that work really hard to maintain their family, and I am really proud to be a Mexican and see them working so hard."
The Golf Channel, which is broadcasting the LPGA Championship, will have microphones hooked up all week to David Leadbetter, Wie's coach, and Herb Krickstein, Morgan Pressel's grandfather.