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Focus on teenagers at Women's British Open

American teenagers Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie, the new young guns of the women's game, head for Royal Birkdale in Lancashire, England as serious contenders for this week's Women's British Open.

The pair were members of the United States team that won the Curtis Cup amateur competition at nearby Formby 13 months ago and are now proven campaigners at the highest level.

Rookie Creamer became the youngest winner on the Ladies European Tour with a record eight-shot victory at the prestigious Evian Masters in France on Saturday where the 15-year-old Wie tied for second.

It was the third time this year that Hawaiian amateur Wie has finished runner-up playing alongside the professionals.

The first occasion was at the SBS Open in Hawaii in February and the second when she had to settle for second best behind world number one Annika Sorenstam at last month's LPGA Championship, the second major of the year.

The youngsters have been pushing hard in the big events this season with Morgan Pressel, 17, and Brittany Lang, 19, sharing second place in last month's U.S. Women's Open at Cherry Hills.

With Creamer, 19 next week, and Wie at the forefront, there is every likelihood the teenage trend will continue at Birkdale this week in the final major of 2005.

Creamer practised over the famed Open championship layout during her Curtis Cup excursion while Wie relishes the chance of another links examination.

"Formby was the only time that I have played links golf," said Wie. "But I'm accustomed to playing in 35mph (58kph) winds back home in Hawaii, so the stronger the wind blows the better.

"As long as I stay out of the pot bunkers then I should be okay."

Wie says she has not yet decided when she will turn professional -- although her 16th birthday in October is widely viewed as a likely date -- and that she is just "playing for fun".

For Creamer, however, this week's tournament is deadly serious.

She became the youngest player in LPGA history to lift her career earnings beyond $1 million after earning a $375,000 cheque for her runaway triumph in France at the weekend.

The only other rookie to have previously passed the million mark is Australia's Karrie Webb in 1996.

Creamer now seems certain to achieve her main goal in her first year as a professional by becoming the youngest player to appear in the Ryder Cup-style Solheim Cup at Crooked Stick in Indiana in September when Europe will defend the trophy.

The American teenager has climbed to nine in the U.S. team rankings and only three counting tournaments remain before the top 10 are automatically selected.

"Making the Solheim has been a huge thing for me all season," said Creamer. "Now I feel I'm there. I think I'll have to re-evaluate my goals."

Victory in a major championship would almost certainly be high on her amended list.

 

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