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May 30, 2017

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LPGA stars hope Phelps' golden touch will rub off

BALTIMORE--For America's team of LPGA stars at the International Crown, winning twice Friday after a humbling start was nice, but handshakes with U.S. Olympic swim star Michael Phelps were priceless.

Phelps, whose record haul of 22 Olympic medals includes 18 golds, greeted Paula Creamer and Stacy Lewis at the eighth hole of their 2-up triumph over Spain's Azahara Munoz and Carlotta Ciganda in the eight-team global match-play event.

"I have to say that the highlight of the day was shaking Michael Phelps's hand," Creamer said. "I haven't washed my hand yet. Here, you can touch my hand. It's OK.

"Yeah, Michael Phelps, I almost fell over."

Despite having four of the world's 12 top players, the U.S. team lost both matches Thursday, never leading at any point in either.

Friday's fightback began with Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson beating Beatriz Recari and Belen Mozo 3 and 2 and ended with the Americans on four points, sharing third overall behind Japan and Thailand.

By Sunday, the U.S. squad hopes Phelps's golden touch rubs off on them and they can take home the four individual crowns and championship trophy.

"We're still going to have to keep going ahead," Creamer said. "We still have a lot of golf left. We still aren't too far out of this."

Kerr missed Phelps but had met him before.

"I hung out with him a bit in New York and he's such a nice guy," Kerr said. "He is golf crazy now."

Hometown hero Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, took a break from his training regimen at the nearby North Baltimore Aquatic Club to support the U.S. women and tweeted about it later.

"Had fun watching and supporting team usa today at the international cup," Phelps tweeted.

Phelps, recently returned from a retirement that lasted 20 months, will swim in next month's U.S. championships, a qualifier for next year's world championships, and could make an Olympic return in 2016 at Rio.

After Phelps wished her well, Creamer parred to win the ninth hole for a 2-up edge and carried thoughts of Phelps well into the back nine.

"We talked about that for two holes, you know. I mean, when are we ever going to do that again?" Creamer said.

"Things like that, normally we probably wouldn't be talking about that, but in this situation, it isn't about golf. It's about just life, representing our country and going forward with that.

"I was so excited. I said, 'I'm going to swim my way up there now.' It was awesome. That's all I got to say."

Sorry, Fiance

Well, except for an apology to fiance Derek Heath for gushing so much over Phelps.

"Derek, sorry," she said. "But I got to say, it was pretty awesome."

Fighting back from their woeful start was not so bad either.

"We knew we were still in it. That was the big thing," Lewis said. "We just had to fight for every shot and every putt."

"It kind of woke us up in a sense, too, that we needed to get out there and win some holes," Creamer said. "You've just got to get the job done and we did."

"We learned from what happened," Kerr added. "We're not going to take anything for granted going forward."

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