Kerr's fellow Americans celebrate her rise to top at LPGA Jamie Farr Classic

cristi kerr, lpga, jamie farr owens corning classic
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Cristie Kerr's rise to No. 1 could inspire a new generation of young female players, some of her American competitors say.
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Associated Press

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Published: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 | 11:47 p.m.

Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel each vowed they would be the top ranked player in the world, something no American had ever done -- until now.

Cristie Kerr beat Creamer and Pressel to the top, but both are proud that an American is atop the world rankings.

“There’s been a lot of talk on our tour about the international influence,” Pressel said Wednesday on the eve of the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic. “To have somebody from the United States … I hope it inspires young girls to come out and could inspire a new wave of American golf.”

Creamer, who won the Farr in 2008 but is struggling after thumb surgery, cheered Kerr’s breakthrough after Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam and Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa dominated the rankings that began in 2006.

“That was really neat to see, to have an American on top,” Creamer said. “It shows that it’s anybody’s title right now. It’s great that we’re finally there. We’ve focused so much on ‘Where are the Americans? Where are the Americans?’ I think it’s kind of a little punch there saying, ‘Here we are.”’

Kerr, who won the year’s second major, the LPGA Championship, by a stunning 12 shots last week, sneaked up from No. 4 in the rankings past Japan’s Ai Miyazato, South Korea’s Jiyai Shin and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen. Creamer is 13th and Pressel 16th in this week’s rankings.

Kerr is skipping the Jamie Farr to prepare for yet another major next week, the U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont. Only one of the top seven players in the world – Shin -- is in the Farr field. Just three of the top 10 on the LPGA Tour money list are also on hand.

Creamer is present, largely because she missed her chance to defend her title a year ago. Before the opening round, she withdrew because of a ligament injury to her left thumb. A year later, she’s still hurting.

“I know that my biggest enemy is myself, just trying to do things that I can’t do and getting upset about that,” she said. “It’s important to overcome this little hurdle that I have to go through. This is all the process of post-surgery. You have to be able to break things up and get back out there and hopefully in another month or two it’ll be a little bit better.”

It is clear that things are not good now. She has played in only three tournaments this year, missing one cut with a seventh-place finish at the ShopRite.

“Preparation for me right now has totally changed from last year and the year before, because of the injury,” said Creamer, who has won eight times on tour. “I need to play more instead of hitting balls on a range. I have to be able to go out there and hit different shots.”

Instead, she must hit all but short pitch shots off a tee to avoid the shock on her thumb.

Just two years ago, Creamer came to the Farr and shot a career-best, 11-under 60 in the opening round that carried her to a two-shot victory.

Even after missing last year’s tournament, she persevered to have a solid year which included 10 top-10 finishes and a primary role in leading the U.S. to victory in the Solheim Cup. But the surgery -- and the pain -- has set her back.

“It’s not where I want it to be,” she said of both her thumb and her game. “I’m playing as well as I can. I’m very limited with things that I can do, so it is tough to take the next step.”

She wears an elastic bandage that circles her wrist and her thumb. But it offers little protection.

“It’s tough. Every day … you kind of have to see how it feels that day,” she said. “I took Monday and Tuesday off from hitting balls. Yesterday I did hit some pitches. I just tried to give it a rest. But it is sore.”

Pressel hasn’t won the Farr, but she’s come close. She shot a 64 in the final round a year ago, but lost on the first hole of a playoff with Eunjung Yi. She was also second to five-time champion Se Ri Pak in the 2007 Farr.

“I’ve been there. I’ve been close. I’ve played well on this golf course. More than anything, it just gives me confidence,” she said. “I’ve been here before, I know I can be close, and hopefully I can close the deal.”