Teams representing the eight strongest golfing countries in the world golf rankings began a match play battle at the LPGA’s debut International Crown on Thursday at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owens Mill, Maryland. Through three days of four-ball matches I’ve watched some simply amazing golf that has also at times been heartbreaking. Divided into two “pools,” the four-player teams from United States, Republic of Korea, Japan, Thailand, Spain, Sweden, Australia, and Chinese Taipei played four-ball matches inside their pools, knowing that only five of the eight countries would survive the first phase of the contest and play in the Sunday singles matches showdown.
Australia & Chinese Taipei
Seventh-seeded Team Australia, led by Hall of Famer Karrie Webb and Chinese Taipei, who came into the contest at the bottom of the rankings and was led by former world ranked number one Yani Tseng, were eliminated in the third and final round of four-ball matches.
The Australians ended the four-ball matches with only three points, having scored two points when Webb and Minjee Lee defeated Republic of Koreans Na Yeon Choi and IK Kim on Thursday, and picked up their third when Lindsey Wright and Katherine Kirk played Japan’s Ai Miyakato and Sakura Yokomine to an all-square tie on Friday. Spain completely shut out Australia on Saturday.
Yani Tseng played the game we’ve all known was in her bag on Thursday, and fans caught their collective breath when the Chinese Taipei teams scored their only four-ball points when they shut out the top-seeded Americans during the first round of play.
For Team USA it was a defeat that foreshadowed Saturday’s sudden-death elimination from the Sunday singles matches.
United States vs Republic of Korea
I don’t think anyone would have predicted on Thursday that the two top-seeded countries, United States and Republic of Korea, would be locked in a sudden-death struggle on Saturday afternoon to gain the wild card access to the Sunday Showdown, but that’s what happened.
Representing the United States, Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson faced off against Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu, representing Republic of Korea, on the 16th hole. Kerr and Thompson had both twice birdied the hole during the four-ball matches and Park and Ryu had twice parred it. But in the end, Park and Ryu both birdied it, as did Kerr. Thompson, with a par, ended Team USA’s hopes of prevailing in the Sunday competition, and the Americans joined the Australians and Taiwanese on the sidelines.
Japan, with eight points from the four-ball matches, will go into the singles matches as the top seed, with Thailand, Spain, and Sweden, all with seven points on the board, as very close contenders. Republic of Korea, with six points, will start Sunday as the lowest ranked team.
Beginning just before noon local time, twenty players representing these five top countries will square off against each other in a super match play contest that I anticipate will produce some extraordinary golf.
11:30 a.m. – Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall vs. Korea’s Inbee Park.
11:40 a.m. – Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum vs. South Korea’s I.K. Kim.
11:50 a.m. – Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn vs. Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg.
Noon – Spain’s Carlota Ciganda vs. South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi.
12:10 p.m. – Japan’s Sakura Yokomine vs. South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu.
12:20 p.m. – Spain’s Beatriz Recari vs. Sweden’s Mikaela Parmlid.
12:30 p.m. – Japan’s Mamiko Higa vs. Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist.
12:40 p.m. – Spain’s Belen Mozo vs. Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn.
12:50 p.m. – Japan’s Mika Miyazato vs. Thailand’s Onnarin Sattayabanphot.
1 p.m. – Japan’s Ai Miyazato vs. Spain’s Azahara Munoz.
I’ve been watching these women play golf for three days now, and there’s not a weak player among them. I’ve been amazed at some of the shots they’ve executed, and I’ve been constantly in awe of the demonstrations they’ve provided of both raw athletic skill and shrewd course management. Frankly, I wouldn’t consider attempting to advance any predictions at this point. Every one of them has the capacity to win! What a Sunday this will be!
Golf Channel will begin coverage of the Sunday Showdown beginning at 2:30PM ET and I’ll provide news and updates as well here at ProGolfNow and on Twitter @bethbethel.