By Dave Johnson, email@example.com | 757-247-4649
6:01 PM EDT, September 8, 2012
It's been 791 days since Paula Creamer was last in this position. Yet as Creamer sits atop the leaderboard going into the final round of the Kingsmill Championship, with a 54-hole hole tournament record score, it's not at all unfamiliar.
"Two years feels like forever, but it also feels like yesterday," said Creamer, whose bogey-free 65 on Saturday put her at 16-under for a two-shot lead. "I've been in contention a lot, so it's not that I'm not used to this. I feel great. I feel really excited no matter what happens tomorrow."
That last time she was the leader going into the final round was in the 2010 U.S. Open, at which she took a three-shot lead into Sunday. She ended up holding on for her first major, and that remains her last victory on the LPGA Tour.
Creamer hasn't fallen into oblivion — she's still 24th on the money list with four top-10 finishes. But in her last event, the Canadian Women's Open, she tied for 60th at 6-over par. She was T-19 the week before that and T-31 the week before that.
This week, she's been masterful with rounds of 65-67-65. She is two shots ahead of Jiyai Shin, the 18- and 36-hole leader, and four up on Dewi Claire Schreefel and Danielle Kang.
"Paula played good today," Shin said. "I was just behind (her) group, so when I was watching, her putting was so good today."
Creamer, still only 26, got started with birdies on Nos. 3, 4 and 5. Then came 11, 13 (when she chipped in from about 15 feet), and 15.
"All relatively close," she said of her birdie chances. "Nothing outrageous."
She also escaped potential trouble, like on the par-4 16th hole, when her birdie putt died about eight feet short. But she saved par and avoided giving one back.
"I hit the ball really well," she said. "I gave myself tons of opportunities and when I did get in a little bit of trouble, I just took my medicine and scrambled out some pars. I'm hitting it solid, so I was able to go after the flagsticks and get within 10 feet on a lot of holes. You don't have to make all of them, but you'll make most, especially with the confidence I have now in my putting."
Shin, another multiple winner on the Tour who is winless since 2010, had the opposite start with bogeys on two of her first four holes. But after making par on her next three, she birdied Nos. 8, 9, 11, and 12 for a third-round 69 to leave her 14-under.
"My shot and my putting weren't working today," she said. "I was thinking it was going to be a long day. But (on) No. 8, I made about a 25-foot putt, so after that I got in good tempo with my putting. I'm really happy to come back on the back nine."
Kang followed her second-round 64 with a 70. Schreefel finished at 69, but it was anything but routine. On the par-5 No. 3 hole, she carded her third eagle of the tournament.
"It was a normal eagle," she said. "Your everyday eagle."
The soft greens were ideal for low scores, and there plenty of them Saturday. Fifteen of the top 20 on the leaderboard shot in the 60s in the third round.
For Creamer, it was another good day on the River Course. Though she's never won here, she's always seemed to be in contention. In her last three trips, Creamer finished with the same score, a 6-under 278 each time. In 2007 and '06, it was good enough to tie for fourth.
"I love this golf course," she said. "I always have. It reminds me of the golf courses I grew up (playing) in California. You have to think a lot. The harder a golf course, the better I usually play."
Will it be good enough for a drought-ending championship? The way she's playing, don't bet against it.
"I wish I was like this every week," she said. "But, you know, it's sports. You're not going to do that. When it does come, there's nothing better than that. It'll be exciting tomorrow. There are some great players bunched in there and I have to take care of my own game."
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