The troubled LPGA Tour couldn't have asked for more.

In its signature event, the U.S. Women's Open, huge crowds turned out at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club -- nearly twice as many fans as for the same tournament in 1992 -- and those in attendance toasted a telegenic, popular, American winner.

In capturing her first major championship, 23-year-old Paula Creamer finally fulfilled the promise she flashed when she won her first LPGA tournament in 2005, a week before graduating from high school.

With Michelle Wie fast becoming an afterthought -- she missed the cut at Oakmont -- Creamer's victory was the next best scenario for a financially strapped tour.

"She's kind of the Arnold Palmer of women's golf," NBC's Johnny Miller gushed, perhaps overstating Creamer's popularity.

Creamer, nicknamed "Pink Panther," has a lucrative and carefully crafted public image, accentuating her looks, engaging personality, femininity and proclivity for wearing pink. But her endorsement income (which exceeds $4 million according to Golf Digest) seemed out of whack for a player with modest accomplishments.

Winning a major, however, helps balance the ledger.

And she did it with a compelling storyline -- three months removed from thumb surgery and not sure she would ever play golf again.

When Creamer stuck her fairway wood into the ground on No. 12 Sunday and hit a weak pop-up, it was apparent the thumb was sore. But after that she was spectacular, hitting her next five approach shots no farther than 15 feet from the hole.