It’s less than 48 hours until the balls start flying at the inaugural LPGA International Crown. The greens are running fast and the rough’s high at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mill, Maryland and the weather, threatening thundershowers, could become the first wild card for Thursday’s four-ball matches. Here’s how I see the Thursday matches breaking down:
Ariya Jutanugarn/Moriya Jutanugarn vs Beartiz Recari/Belen Mozo
At first glance the Jutanugarn sisters will face some serious competition from Recari and Mozo, but I think the Jutanugarns will have the advantage in this match. Although they’re less experienced in the nuances of match play, they’re a well-oiled team and Recari, who might be expected to anchor this team, hasn’t had a strong first half of the 2014 season. I’m looking for the sisters to bring home a point for Thailand in this match.
Phatlum and Sattaybanphot will have their hands full with this match against two fierce competitors who’ve played together in the Solheim Cup. Phatlum’s a solid competitor but Sattaybanphot’s young in her golf career and her collegiate performance at Purdue was middling. I don’t think she has the traction to back up Phatlum. Ciganda and Munoz will take the point for Spain.
United States vs Chinese Taipei
Creamer and Kerr are going to be hard to beat. They’re seasoned competitors in both individual stroke play and team match play. Barring an unanticipated disaster inside the United States team or a major surprise advantage (four Aces on the par-3s, for example) for Kung and Lu, I’m looking for Creamer and Kerr to bring home a point for the United States.
Lewis sprained her ankle during a Tuesday practice round and Thompson sometimes freezes up when she’s putting under pressure but I’m looking for another point from the United States from this team’s match against Tseng and Yao. Even though Tseng has a world-class game in her bag, she’s still looking for it and Yao’s 2014 season on the JLPGA has been up and down, from a win at the Fujisankei Ladies Open to 47th place finish at the Resort Trust Ladies Open. Lewis will steady Thompson and they’ll take the point.
Japan vs Sweden
Higa and Miyazato, representing 3rd ranked Japan, should be expected to have the advantage over Hedwall and Nordqvist, playing for 6th ranked Sweden, but I’m picking Hedwall and Nordqvist on this match. Hedwall, who has a powerful game, was the overall MVP at the 2013 Solheim Cup, and Nordqvist, with her Solheim Ace, also made history at the Colorado Golf Club. GolfWeek gave Nordqvist an A and Hedwall an A+ for their Solheim performances last year and Nordqvist, coming in with five top-10 finishes, two of the victories, is playing an exceptionally strong game right now. Point for Sweden from this match.
Miyazato and Yokomine will have the advantage over Lindberg and Parmlid in this match. Miyazato’s an experienced Tour player who knows how to close the deal with a win as does Yokomine, who’s bringing her JLPGA record that includes 22 wins to the International Crown. The Japanese team is going to edge out Lindberg and Parmlid and take the point for Japan.
Republic of Korea vs Australia
Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu are going to be hard to beat. They’ve already won one match play championship this year at Mission Hills. Individually they’re outstanding competitors and as a team, like Hedwall and Nordqvist, Cream and Kerr, Lewis and Thompson, they’re also a well-oiled team. I’m not looking for Wright and Kirk to be able to hold them off. Point to Republic of Korea from this match.
This promises to be the most tightly contested match at the International Crown on Thursday. Republic of Korea outranks Australia and Choi and Kim will bring the advantage of that ranking superiority to the match. But I’m looking for Hall of Famer Webb and her protege, amateur Minjee Lee, to battle furiously for the win, and I think they can do it. Point to Australia.
Play begins Thursday morning, July 24, at the International Crown and Golf Channel will provide daily coverage: Thursday, July 24 and Friday, July 25, 11:30am-3:30pm; Saturday, July 26 and Sunday, July 27, 3-7pm, all times ET.
My colleagues and I at ProGolfNow will also provide ongoing updates and commentary. If you follow me on Twitter @bethbethel I’ll notify you when new posts are published.