First impressions: Creamer, Stanford help USA get off to fast start

In baseball, the manager puts his best hitters in the third and fourth spots to drive in the runs.

But in Solheim Cup singles - particularly when you enter Sunday's play in an unexpected tie - captains bat their sluggers first to drive the rest of the squad.

United States captain Beth Daniel wrote in Paula Creamer (the world's No. 3 player) and Angela Stanford (the world's No. 9) at the top of her 12-woman order and let them set the tone for the Americans' 16-12 victory at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove.

"The two of them went out and won 2 very quick points for us early in the day," Daniel said. "You make a statement."

Creamer and Stanford met Saturday night and promised each other they'd live up to the responsibility.

"I just think there's something about seeing red early (on the scoreboard)," Stanford said. "You know Paula's going to do her deal - you know she's going to win - so I wanted to be right behind her. The more red everybody else could see early, the better it was going to be."

In the end, it became a race to see who would close out their opponent first.

Stanford, playing the day's second match, finished Wales' Becky Brewerton 5&4 about 15 minutes before Creamer wrapped up a 3&2 victory over top European star Suzann Pettersen.

Stanford won the first two holes with birdies and never allowed Brewerton to get back to square.

Creamer, on the other hand, struggled to gain control of her match with Pettersen.

The 23-year-old Creamer flushed a 30-foot birdie putt at No. 3 and pumped her fist - not that the five-deep crowd at the green needed any encouragement to go nuts.

But Pettersen, after doing her version of Camilo Villegas' "Spider" green-reading technique, rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt to mute the fans.

At the fourth hole, Creamer's easy 2-putt for par went for naught as Pettersen drained a 15-foot par putt.

"I threw a few putts at her and she threw a few at me," Pettersen said.

Then Creamer started sinking some putts Pettersen couldn't match.

They made the turn all-square and Pettersen was 20 feet inside of Creamer at the 10th green, but Creamer nailed her 40-foot putt and Pettersen missed.

Creamer never let Pettersen back in the match as the 28-year-old Norwegian showed a little frustration.

At the 12th green, Pettersen conceded the hole after missing her par putt. Just one thing: She never told Creamer. Pettersen simply picked up her ball and started walking toward the 13th tee, which left Creamer motioning to her as if to say, "What the heck?"

Pettersen's bogey at No. 14 put Creamer ahead by 3 holes and all but clinched the match.

How much did the early wins by Stanford and Creamer matter? When they finished, the Europeans led 5 matches, the Americans led 2 and three others were even.

Had those results stayed the same, Europe would have won the Cup by a 15-13 final. The pressure to atone for those early points aided the U.S. rally.

"When you do have that first spot, you know you have to motivate your team," Creamer said. "They want to see red - and for a long time they saw blue up there (on the board).

"I kind of feel when the red started showing, there was hope in everybody's eyes."

Team USA's Angela Stanford reacts to her win on the 16th hole at the final round of the Solheim Cup in Sugar Grove on Sunday. John Starks | Staff Photographer
Team USA captain Beth Daniel holds the Solheim Cup during the closing ceremony at the golf tournament Sunday at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove. The USA team won 16-12 to retain the cup. Associated Press
Paula Creamer reacts to her put on the fourth green during the final round of play at the Solheim Cup in Sugar Grove on Sunday. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer
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