Sybase Match Play format raises eyebrows
Paula Creamer enjoys being on the course with Hall of Famer Karrie Webb - the give-and-take, the teasing and probably most of all, the golf.
There's a bond between the two that Creamer appreciates. When she was a youngster fresh on the LPGA Tour, she felt Webb reached out and was there to be a mentor.
''I really have appreciated kind of how she's talked with me over the years and helped me to get where I am,'' said the 24-year-old Creamer, who won her first major last year. ''She's a great, great person for the game of golf and she's done a lot, (former) No. 1 in the world and all that, and to see her playing great again, I think is wonderful.''
The 36-year-old Webb and Creamer get a chance to renew their friendship Friday in a second-round match in the $1.5 million Sybase Match Play Championship that many think is happening too soon.
Creamer and Webb scored impressive first-round wins Thursday in leading nine of the top 11 seeds into the second round at Hamilton Farm Golf Club.
However, their second-round pairing had many wondering how the world's No. 10 and No. 8 players, respectively, are being forced the play this early in the tournament.
The answer is that the seedings are based on last year's earnings on the LPGA Tour, so forget that Webb, who is the No. 23 seed in this event, has won twice this year and Creamer is the defending U.S. Open champion.
''We shouldn't be meeting for another couple of rounds,'' said Webb, who was 5 under in her 3-and-2 win over fellow Australian Sarah Kemp. ''But they did it the way they did it and it's still going to be a great match.''
Creamer, who won six of the first 10 holes in steamrolling Aree Song of South Korea 5 and 4, expects a fun match, especially against someone she considers a mentor.
''She challenges me,'' Creamer said of ''Webbie.'' ''She gives me grief, talks about my pink balls, stuff like that. Those are the people that I really like to be around, that can take it, but they also give it pretty well.''
The Creamer-Webb meeting in the second round isn't the only star attraction.
Michelle Wie will be facing former U.S. Open champion Anna Nordqvist of Sweden. Wie was only 1-up through 12 holes before posting a 4-and-3 win over Beatriz Recari of Spain. Nordqvist won by the same margin over Haeji Kang of South Korea.
''It was a bit of a struggle for me personally,'' said Wie, who won the final three holes - the last two on bogeys by Recari.
After almost three straight days of rain that saturated an already wet course, the sun occasionally accompanied players on a day that form held.
Top-seeded Na Yeon Choi of South Korea led the way with a 3-and-2 win over Catriona Matthew of Scotland.
The only major upset was second-seeded Jiyai Shin. The world's No. 2 ranked player was beaten by fellow South Korean Meena Lee, 2-up.
Suzann Pettersen of Norway, the world's No. 3 ranked player and the No. 5 seed in the tournament, needed to win three of the final four holes to beat Natalie Gulbis. Pettersen was conceded a birdie on No. 18 after sticking an approach shot on the par 5 from 50 yards. Gulbis, who played on a sponsor's exemption, missed a 12-footer to extend the match.
Reigning LPGA champion Cristie Kerr, the No. 3 seed, won four of the first five holes in beating fellow American Amanda Blumenherst 3 and 2.
Kerr, who changed her irons and putter before the round because she wasn't satisfied with the way she was hitting them, will face Spanish rookie Belen Mozo, who defeated close friend Azahara Munoz with a birdie on the 21st hole.
World No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan birdied the 15th and won the 16th with a par to beat Marcy Hart 3 and 2.
''To shoot 2 under is pretty good, but the match I needed to stay very patient, and she missed some putts on the back nine,'' Tseng said. ''That's how it is. It was pretty tough.''
Sixth seed Ai Miyazato of Japan rallied from 2 down with five holes to play and defeated Hee Young Park with a 23-foot birdie on the 21st hole. Miyazato birdied the 18th to extend the match.
''The hardest match I ever had,'' Miyazato said. ''If we played one more hole my energy would be gone.''
Defending champion Sun Young Yoo of South Korea had to go 21 holes to beat Grace Park, a South Korean who lives in Arizona. Angela Stanford, last year's runner-up, got off to a good start with a 4-and-2 win over Candie Kung.
Maria Hjorth, who won the Avnet LPGA Classic a little more than two weeks ago in Alabama, was surprised by Seon Hwa Lee of South Korea, 3 and 2.