Friday, July 26, 2019

The Evian Championship - Cut Day Agonies

Paula Creamer didn't miss the Evian Championship cut, but for her that back nine 5-hole disaster has probably ended her hope for an 8th Solheim Cup appearance.

Paula Creamer brought memories of past glory and dreams of future ones to the Evian Championship first tee on Thursday. She finished with a flourish and slept on the overnight lead. It was a heady beginning to her 13th Evian start for the 2005 Evian Masters champion.

Coming in to the season's 4th major championship, Creamer certainly looked up to the Evian challenge.  Top-10 finishes at the Shoprite in June and at the Dow Great Lakes Bay last week seemed to signal Creamer was coming into form after those missed cuts at the US Women's Open and the Women's PGA Championship.

Last week she had teamed up with Morgan Pressel for the inaugural Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational and the duo reprised some of their finest Solheim Cup play as they glided around the Midland Country Club track with the finesse and panache of veteran athletes. Captain Inkster watched their performance with as much interest as I did.

We all know Paula Creamer brings guts and grit to the tee. There's no question about her determination and her competitive juices. But Creamer hasn't hoisted a trophy since 2014. It's been a long dry spell. She's struggled - with injuries, with a flagging game, with personal distractions.  But a new, open-stance putting style seemed to be curing some of her on-course problems and her irrepressible persistence gave me reason to be hopefully optimistic that she would forge a path to Gleneagles.

The 2019 Solheim Cup looms and the only way she'll be on the tee at Gleneagles is if Captain Inkster taps her on the shoulder. A T6 finish with Pressel in Michigan followed by a victory at Evian just might have convinced Juli Inkster to summon the Pink Panther.

Then Thursday rolled over to Friday. Creamer's flawless opening round - a beautiful 7-under 64 -  positioned her nicely, even though  by the time she teed off in the afternoon she was trailing Koreans Sung Hyun Park and Mi Hyang Lee.

Creamer followed her birdie at the third with a steady string of pars and then another birdie at the 12th. She was at 9-under and holding on to a clear look at the top of the board. All seemed well. Until the horn blew, play was suspended, and the Pink Panther lost her momentum and focus.

Creamer bogied (or worse) five of her last six holes. Thursday's first round 64 became Friday's second round 76, and Paula Creamer tumbled down the board. She goes to the weekend at two-under par and T24, not a position that gives her a hopeful peek at victory come Sunday afternoon, not a situation that will hold Captain Inkster's attention as she scans the field of American players for the two best picks to fill out Team USA.

Never mind that Gerina Piller, Lizette Salas, Nelly Korda, and Austin Ernst will all go into the weekend at Evian trailing Paula Creamer. Never mind that Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson missed the cut. They'll both pack up and move on to Woburn for some early and extended practice, their spots on the Team USA Solheim Cup roster secure.

Paula Creamer's hopes and dreams of an 8th consecutive Solheim Cup probably came to an end on the par 3 16th hole at Evian on Friday.

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