RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — While pink always has been her color of choice, Paula Creamer increasingly was seeing red.
Following her crowning achievement in winning the 2010 U.S. Women's Open at venerable Oakmont Country Club north of Pittsburgh at age 23, Creamer's winning ways went south.
The popular Creamer didn't win the rest of 2010, or in 2011, 2012 or 2013.
For a woman who won her first LPGA title in 2005 — four days before graduating from high school — and made the Open her 10th win on the LPGA tour, the drought was as maddening as it was surprising.
"I have always been pretty positive with things and I tried to stay positive, but I had some breakdowns," Creamer said Monday before beginning preparation for the first major championship of the season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship which starts Thursday at Mission Hills Country Club. "There were times when my family didn't want to be around me.
"I was uptight, I was stressed."
Lingering issues with her surgically repaired thumb from 2010 bothered her. So did an uncooperative putter.
And swing changes to gain length were tougher to take hold than she realized. But the tide started turning for her a little more than a year ago. Not necessarily on the course, but away from it.
For starters, her doctor told her she was gluten and dairy intolerant, which led to shunning some of her favorite foods. She has lost in the neighborhood of 10 pounds — "I'm not as puffy as I used to be," she laughed — has more energy, and is much fitter, stronger and healthier.
And she met Derek Heath, who like Creamer's father once was, is a pilot who flies C-17s for the Air Force. He was born on the 4th of July, in the same hospital Creamer was born in six years later, and in December she became engaged while the two were skydiving.
"It's like reading it in a fairytale book," Creamer said.
LOOK BACK: Creamer's 75-foot putt to win in February
But while she didn't exactly tank on the course — she had 23 top-10s during her winless stretch, including runner-up finishes each season — she couldn't put an end to her discontented results on the course.
The unenviable streak reached 0-for-80 by the time she teed off in the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore the last week of February.
Then she made the putt seen round the world — a 75-footer on the second playoff hole to beat Azahara Munoz.
The replay of the putt was shown on network news shows in the U.S. and popped up on many other shows across the world. It became an instant viral sensation and reports appeared in newspapers around the world.
"The fact that it's even called 'The Putt' is incredible," Creamer said. "I don't think I realized the magnitude of it all until a couple weeks after. ... I was so excited to have that win. And then there was the timing of it all ... getting engaged, winning."
Colin Cann was with Creamer every step of the way as her caddie, sometimes taking the brunt of her frustrations. He said she never lost faith in herself. And Cann never lost faith, either.
"There was a drought from winning, but there wasn't a nose dive," he said. "She was very frustrated, but what can you do but keep knocking on the door? And then she makes the bomb. She's in a good place right now. ... She's happy, she's engaged, she's playing well."
A lot of that has to do with Heath, who is as dedicated and committed to his craft as Creamer is to hers.
"He made me realize there is so much more to my life than my golf," Creamer said. "He helped me to stop putting pressure on myself. He understands pressure. ... He flies planes. He flies in Afghanistan.
"... He changed my life. I feel very complete. Everybody wants to meet their other half and share their life with them. He made me realize how to let go of things a little bit better. ... He made me a better person."
Creamer, however, isn't frustration free. There's the matter of her results on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills. In her eight starts here as a professional, she's never finished outside the top-24, but has never posted a top-10 finish. Last year was her best finish — a tie for 13th.
"I don't know why, but I just haven't played well here," Creamer said. "But I feel great. I feel relaxed. And I'm longer now, which will help out when I go into greens with shorter clubs and now I can attack some pins that I wasn't able to attack before. I'm hoping to change my results this year."
She already has. If you can end a 0-for-80 blemish, you can end most anything.
"She's one of the most determined players I've ever met," said Karen Stupples, a major champion and on-course analyst for Golf Channel.
"She's so mentally tough, and she's so mentally strong. Her ball-striking continues to impress. She plays shots now that I didn't ever used to see her playing, and so her overall game has improved tremendously, even from when she was winning all the time. It was just the putting that was always holding her back these last few years. But the win in Singapore must have given her a bit of confidence, and making that putt was really huge for her at the end there just to see that thing go in the hole and to know that she's still got it."
Follow national golf writer Steve DiMeglio on Twitter at @Steve_DiMeglio.
PHOTOS: PAULA CREAMER'S LPGA CAREER