Creamer Holds 54-Hole Lead By 3 July 10, 2010 By David Shefter, USGA

Oakmont, Pa. – Paula Creamer finished off the weather-delayed third round Sunday morning with a birdie at the 18th hole to card a 1-under-par 70 for a three-shot lead after 54 holes of the 65th U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont Country Club.

Creamer, 23, of Pleasanton, Calif., matched the lowest third-round score and is the only golfer under par (1-under 212) in the championship. The eight-time LPGA Tour winner is seeking her first major title.

Wendy Ward of San Antonio, Texas, who also carded a 70 along with 15-year-old Alexis Thompson, stands at 2-over 215, one stroke ahead of Norway’s Suzann Pettersen, American Christina Kim and Amy Yang of Korea. Yang shot an even-par 71, while Pettersen and Kim had 72s.

Thompson, competing in just her second event as a professional, is alone in sixth position at 217. She would be the youngest Women’s Open champion by 4½ years. Inbee Park was 19 years, 11 months when she won at Interlachen Country Club in 2008.

Due to Friday afternoon’s thunderstorm, the third round didn’t begin until late Saturday and when play was suspended for the day due to darkness, the leaders still had as many as five holes left to complete on Sunday morning.

The final round is scheduled to begin approximately at 10:20 a.m. EDT. USGA officials are optimistic that the competition – barring a three-hole playoff – will conclude around 6 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

Creamer, who ended Saturday with a three-putt bogey at No. 13, endured another three-putt bogey at the par-3 16th to drop to even par for the championship. She also three-putted the short par-4 17th, missing a 4-foot birdie putt. But at 18, one of the most difficult finishing holes in championship golf, she stuffed her approach to 5 feet and made the birdie.

"The par on 17 was unfortunate," said Creamer. "The three-putt on 16 was something I've normally not been doing. But it was a great birdie [on 18]. It was a great finish. It was one of the best swings of the tournament so far and I made a really good putt."

The 37-year-old Ward, the 1994 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, owns four LPGA Tour victories, the last coming five years ago at the Takefuji Classic. But she has never finished better than T-19 in 13 previous U.S. Women’s Opens, and she has yet to post a top-10 finish in 11 LPGA Tour events in 2010.

After a double-bogey 6 at No. 2, Ward played her final 16 holes in three under par.                                         

Pettersen, a six-time LPGA Tour winner, won the 2007 LPGA Championship for her only major title. She also was close to winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship earlier that year, but struggled down the stretch and Morgan Pressel claimed the title. Pettersen, however, has hit 81 percent of the greens in regulation through 54 holes (44 for 54), an amazing feat considering the difficulty of the Oakmont layout.

Like Ward, Christina Kim has not won on tour in five years, but she has played on two U.S. Solheim Cup teams (2005 and 2009) and once held the 18-hole USGA scoring record when she shot a 62 at the 2001 U.S. Girls’ Junior at Indian Hills C.C. in Mission Hills, Kan. But her best Women’s Open showing in eight previous appearances was a T-22 in 2003.

David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at dshefter@usga.org.