Creamer, Pettersen lead with spirit and competitive desire

August 15 2013, Ward Clayton

The spirit and competitive desire that are keys to winning the Solheim Cup this week can be displayed by the actions of a player when things aren’t going very well.

That’s when the usually ultra-successful Paula Creamer and Suzann Pettersen show their leadership qualities as players who have gone from being the youngest Solheim Cup participants to rocks of their teams.

Creamer, 27, had that rare moment two years ago in Ireland when another veteran, Catriona Matthew, put a 6-and-5 whipping on Creamer in Singles en route to Europe’s victory. Creamer had never lost or halved a Singles match until then.

“I’m going to be the best cheerleader I can be,” Creamer said after her loss. “I've had a lot of the girls come out and follow me in the last several matches that I've played. I'm going to do the same thing and cheer them on. That's why we're a team. That's why there are 12 girls out here. One person isn't going to make the team.”

Creamer sports the best record among the 24 participants this week and shares the Americans’ veteran leadership role with Cristie Kerr. She has a 11-3-5 mark in four previous Solheim Cups, including 3-1-0 in Singles. The victory path began with a 7-and-5 Singles victory over Laura Davies in 2005 when Creamer, only 19 years old, made seven birdies in 13 holes. She has played in 19 of a possible 20 matches during her Solheim career and has scored at least three points in every event.

“I love this format. I love match play. I love playing against somebody else,” Creamer said in 2011. “You're not playing the golf course this week, you're playing your opponent, and there is nothing better than going out and just grinding out pars to win matches, grinding out birdies.”

Longtime playing partner Juli Inkster said, “Paula has got heart. She's got spunk. And she loves the Solheim Cup. You don't have to get her all fired up. She's fired up as soon as she gets on the plane. Plus she's got a little bit of talent to go along with that, so that kind of adds up to success.”

Norway’s Pettersen, 32, has similar competitive chops.  Her 12-8-5 record, which began as a 21-year-old in 2002, sits atop the European team with Catriona Matthew’s 12-7-6 mark. No player this week has won more in team competition (11 wins). Pettersen’s history includes a 1-3-0 record in Singles, but that first victory came in 2011 when she birdied the final three holes to come from 1-down to beat Michelle Wie 1-up and inspired late rallies by Caroline Hedwall and Azahara Munoz to gain the Solheim Cup for Europe. This late drama came after a rain delay turned momentum back to the United States.

“This is all about the team,” Pettersen said. “You don't give up until the very end. So like some of you said, with an hour and something left, it looked like we were coming up short, but who cares. It's not done before all the points are handed out.”

Pettersen echoes Creamer when it comes to be anxious to play in this format.

“I remember when I was a rookie, I couldn't sit still for the last couple of months leading up to it,” Pettersen said. “I guess now you know what to expect and you just try to save your energy for the week because you know it's just going to be the best week of the year.”

And it’s nearly assured to come down to late Sunday afternoon. Three of the last four Solheim Cups have been tied 8-8 entering Singles and the other was a one-point edge. So Creamer and Pettersen could again be standing at the summit, this time in Colorado, whether they’re grinding or heartily cheering on teammates.

Topics: Solheim Cup