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Paula Creamer looking to defend Evian title

A year ago, the Evian Masters served as a coming-out party for Paula Creamer. Even Michelle Wie had to take a back seat.

Creamer, Wie, Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa and Karrie Webb headline a world-class field in the $3 million event, which begins Wednesday at the Evian Masters Golf Club in France.

Last July, Creamer took the title of top teenager in women's golf when she won by a record eight strokes over Wie and Ochoa. It was the second LPGA Tour win for Creamer, who at 19 is three years older than Wie.

"It is still hard for me to believe that I had such a big lead with the players that were here last year," said Creamer, who shot a 15-under-par 273. "That really boosted my confidence."

Wie also performed well with a 7-under 281 despite finishing a distant second.

The Hawaiian sensation with the 300-yard drives has played a number of men's events, including this month's John Deere Classic, where she missed the cut.

"Every tournament that I go into, whether it's a men's event or a women's event, I go in with the same mind-set," Wie said. "I am here to play as hard as I can and try as hard as I can. Obviously, my mind-set is to win. I don't really emphasize more on, you know, I don't stress a lot on the tournament, but every tournament is basically the same."

But while the willowy Wie has built her early career on entering PGA tournaments, Creamer has sought to make her mark on the LPGA Tour.

After winning here last year, Creamer went on to Solheim Cup stardom and ended the season with a second-place ranking on the ADT official money list.

This season, Creamer has eight top-10 finishes in 16 starts but no titles. She finished one shot out of a playoff at the Jamie Farr Classic two weeks ago and advanced to the semifinals the previous week at the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship.

Sorenstam, Ochoa, Webb and Mi Hyun Kim each have won two events this season and surpassed $1 million in earnings. Last year at this time, Sorenstam was the only player to accrue more than $1 million.

Sorenstam traditionally plays well at the elegant par-72 Evian Masters Golf Club, with two titles and a runner-up finish in six appearances here. The Swedish superstar won the MasterCard Classic in March and the U.S. Women's Open Championship earlier in the month.

"This is one of the most wonderful places in the world and is definitely one of the highlights of our schedule," Sorenstam said. "To be a winner here (in 2000 and 2002) makes it even more special."

Ochoa tops the money list with more than $1.4 million in earnings. Along with wins at the Takefuji Classic in April and the Sybase Classic in May, the Mexican has five runner-up finishes.

Ochoa also beat Creamer, 3 and 2, to finish third at the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship.

Webb won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April and the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill in May, which are two of the events where Ochoa finished as a runner-up.

Ochoa also was the runner-up at the Ginn Clubs and Resorts Open, which was won by Kim in April. Kim's other victory came two weeks ago at the Jamie Farr Classic in a playoff over Natalie Gulbis.

July 26, 2006


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