Paula Creamer knew she was playing well. She was surprised just how well. Creamer birdied nine of the last 11 holes, including the final three, for a course-record 60 on the par-71 Highland Meadows layout Thursday. She held a five-stroke lead after the opening round of the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.
Only after she finished did she realize how close she came to golf's magic number of 59.
"I didn't know it was a par 71," Creamer said with a laugh. "I thought it was a par 72. If I would have known that, who knows?"
Creamer couldn't have done much better. She would have had to hole out a 137-yard, 7-iron from the fairway to shoot 59. She rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt for her 60 _ her best round on tour by four strokes.
Only a handful of players have reached 59 in a competitive round on the PGA or LPGA tours.
"We were all standing on the green and Kimmie (Mi Hyun Kim) was looking at me, 'Wow, that was unbelievable,'" Creamer said. "(I thought) what did we shoot here? Sixty? I didn't know. I didn't realize it."
The 21-year-old Creamer's round was her best by six strokes this season and broke Se Ri Pak's course mark by a shot. She matched the tour record of raw score for nine holes with a 27 on the home half.
It was an epic turnaround after two recent bad rounds of note. Creamer began the final round of the U.S. Women's Open two weeks ago a shot back of rookie Stacy Lewis. She left the course crestfallen after shooting a 5-over 78 that left her in a tie for sixth, six shots behind 19-year-old winner Inbee Park.
Last week at the NW Arkansas Championship, she was in contention heading into the final round of the 54-hole event but wilted with a 74.
Apparently she's over those scoring woes.
While she was going over her scorecard Thursday, she lost track of what club she used on one hole.
"Too many birdies," she cracked. "I forget."
Eun-Hee Ji and Gloria Park each shot a 65 and were largely overlooked in the wake of Creamer's round. Eva Dahllof and Young Kim had 66s. Defending champion Pak, trying to become the first player to win the same LPGA tournament six times, shot a 68. Michelle Wie had a 70.
Twenty-one players had yet to finish when play was suspended late in the day by lightning and heavy rain. They will complete their rounds Friday before the second round begins.
Annika Sorenstam set the LPGA Tour mark with a 59 in the second round of the 2001 Standard Register PING on a par-72 course. Creamer became the fourth LPGA Tour player to shoot 60 _ the others are Meg Mallon (2003 Welch's/Fry on the par-70 Dell Urich Golf Course in Tucson, Ariz.), Jung Yeon Lee (2004 Welch's/Fry) and Anna Acker-Macosko (2004 Longs Drug Challenge, par-71 The Ridge Golf Course, Auburn, Calif.).
David Duval (1999 Bob Hope), Chip Beck (1991 Las Vegas) and Al Geiberger (1977 Memphis) are the only players to shoot 59 on the PGA Tour.
Creamer's playing partners weren't amazed at her low score.
"Paula is so talented. She could birdie every hole," said Natalie Gulbis, who shot a 74. "She's a birdie machine. I don't think there's a day that she goes out not thinking she can birdie every hole."
Creamer, who is No. 3 on the LPGA Tour money list, started on the back nine and was 4 under at the turn after birdies on 17 and 18. The rest of the way, she had all birdies except for a pair of two-putt pars.
She birdied the first three holes on her second nine, making putts of 9, 30 and 15 feet. After missing a 20-foot birdie putt and settling for par at No. 4, she almost holed a 3-rescue club from 188 yards on the par-4 fifth, tapping in from 6 inches for birdie.
She barely missed a 15-footer for birdie at the sixth hole in what was her last realistic shot at 59 before closing with the three birdies.
After completing the round, she and caddie Colin Cann finally figured out what par was.
"Colin and I were looking at it (and he said), 'Seventy-one! You should have shot a 59! What were you doing out there?'" Creamer said. "It was funny."
The 60 came 10 years to the day after Pak's 61 in the second round in 1998. Pak followed that with a 63.
Creamer saw no reason why she would cool off, either.
"Tomorrow, that's going to be an interesting day," she said. "If I can shoot 60, there's no reason why I can't back it up again."