Apr 1, 2014; Rancho Mirage, CA, USA; Karrie Webb and Beatriz Recari and Moriya Jutanugarn and Stacy Lewis and Na Yeon Choi and Ai Miyazato and Pernilla Lindberg and Candie Kung pose for a photo next to the International Crown Trophy during the International Crown press conference at Mission Hills Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

International Crown: Team USA (video)

The inaugural 8-country International Crown match play tournament, July 22-27, is a first-of-its-kind event that’s been in the planning for more than a year.  The top-seeded United States team — Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Paula Creamer, and Cristie Kerr — brings together four power players with a combined total of 41 LPGA Tour victories, six of them major championship wins: US Women’s Open (Kerr, 2007; Creamer, 2010), LPGA Championship (Kerr, 2010), Kraft Nabisco Championship (Lewis, 2011, Thompson, 2014), and the Women’s British Open (Lewis, 2013).  All four team members have played on at least one Solheim Cup United States team and they have a combined 34 years of competition at the highest level of professional golf.

Tough Competition Lewis, Thompson, Creamer, and Kerr appear to be the dream team but they’re facing some tough competition at the International Crown: an Australian team led spiritually if not officially by Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, who’ll be backstopped by her protege, amateur Minjee Lee; a South Korean team headed up by Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu, two of the Tour’s toughest competitors; a Spanish team composed of three Solheim Cup alumnae — Beatriz Recari, Carlota Ciganda, and Azahara Munoz, who just got her clubs back from their lost Air Canada flight — all fierce match play competitors, and one of the hottest rising stars on the Tour, Belen Mozo. The ‘Dream Team’ Stacy Lewis has entered 17 events this year and hasn’t missed a cut.  She’s recorded 13 top-10 finishes, three of them victories at the North Texas LPGA Shootout, the ShopRite LPGA Classic, and WalMart NW Arkansas Championship.  She’s leading the Tour in putts per GIR, scoring average, rounds under par, and birdies.  And she just recorded her season-low finish, T25th at the Marathon Classic, although both her putting and scoring were well with the range of her overall performance stats. Lexi Thompson, with 15 starts this season, has missed two cuts, most recently at the WalMart NW Arkansas Championship.  She’s recorded seven top-10 finishes, including her victory at the Kraft Nabisco, but only one of those top-10s has come in her last four events, when she finished T4 at the US Women’s Open.  With a T54th finish at the Women’s British Open and a T15th finish at the Marathon Classic, let’s hope Thompson isn’t sinking into a mid-year slump. The team’s going to need her long off-the-tee bombers to be flying straight and true. Paula Creamer, also with 15 starts this year, has missed one cut.  Her three top-10 finishes include a dramatic playoff win against Azahara Munoz — who’s playing for Spain at the International Crown — at the HSBC Women’s Champions.  Creamer’s a determined and persistent competitor who, like Cristie Kerr, doesn’t quit playing golf until the last putt’s dropped, but her last four finishes have all been outside the top-10, her best a T10th at the US Women’s Open and her worst a T66th at the Marathon Classic, where she squeezed above the cut line on Friday with a pair of last-minute birdies.  Don’t stall out now, Paula! Cristie Kerr, playing her 19th season on the Tour, is the veteran on the US team and the only team member who doesn’t have a win this year.  Kerr’s entered 15 events and missed the cut once, at the US Women’s Open.  She’s also playing the strongest game going into the International Crown, with two recent runner-up finishes — at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic and the WalMart NW Arkansas Classic and a solo 3rd at the Marathon Classic this week. We’ll know in a few days how well this team that’s deeply experienced in match play tournaments and having a strong collective season measures up again the field. I’ll provide ongoing commentary and updates on the International Crown throughout the week.  Follow me on Twitter @bethbethel and I’ll notify you as I publish posts here at ProGolfNow and on my blog, Staying in the Short Grass.
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Tags: Cristie Kerr Golf International Crown Lexi Thompson LPGA Paula Creamer Stacy Lewis

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