OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Yani Tseng hopes she doesn’t cry on the first tee when she hears Taiwan’s national anthem. Golf is a lonely sport, Tseng said, and she’s grateful for the chance finally to compete on a team at the LPGA’s inaugural International Crown.
“Every time I see Solheim Cup, I’m so excited,” Tseng said. “I wish I was part of it. Doesn’t matter which country I play for; I wish I was in a team event.”
That’s precisely why the LPGA created the Crown event, to give players from other countries, particularly the Asians, a chance to get in on the action.
“This year, obviously the American players are playing very well,” South Korea’s Inbee Park said. “Obviously it hasn’t been like the last couple years. We definitely feel the pressure to, and we definitely feel like we have to step it up a little bit this year and try to change some kind of rhythm to it. I think this week’s going to be something that can really change it.”
The first-year event will be Thursday-Sunday at Caves Valley Golf Club. Here’s your guide to understanding who gets to wear the Crown:
TEAMS: Eight countries qualified for the International Crown based on the cumulative rankings of their top four players. Each team was determined on March 31, with the top four players in the Rolex Rankings making the team.
FORMAT: There are two pools: A and B. For the first three days, teams will face only teams in their respective pools:
- United States
- South Korea
Each day consists of one session. For the first three days, each country plays four-ball matches against every other country in its pool.
At the end of Day 3, points are tallied and the two countries with the most points advance to Sunday.
The countries with the third-most points in each pool will then square off in a wild-card playoff to determine the fifth team to advance to Sunday. Each team will then select two players to represent it in a sudden-death, four-ball playoff.
On Sunday, countries will be seeded based on their point totals. Ten singles matches will be held, with each country playing one singles match against every other country.
The team with the most points over the course of four days takes home the crown (literally).
Team USA: Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr. All four are experienced Solheim Cup players, and Creamer has paired with all three teammates in Solheim competition.
What’s different about this event?
“We can all sit at a table together,” Creamer said. “No worries about who is sitting here, who is sitting there. There is no captain.”
Creamer played in an AJGA Canon Cup at Caves Valley, in 2004, as a junior player, but Lewis saw the course for the first time this week.
“It’s a ballstriker’s course,” she said. “It’s who can carry it the farthest and stay out of the rough.”
Lewis rolled her ankle on a sprinkler head Tuesday during a practice round, but got it wrapped and said the ankle will not be an issue.
“If anything it’s helping me stay down and not jump in front of the ball,” she said, “which I’ve been trying to work on for two weeks, so maybe it’s a good thing.”
Where’s Michelle Wie?: Because teams were finalized at the conclusion of the Kia Classic in late March, Wie didn’t make the team. The LPGA set the selection date early this year to give international players who don’t compete on the LPGA a chance to coordinate their travel. The selection date likely will be pushed closer to the event for 2016.
Unfamiliar faces: Yani Tseng’s four-ball partner for the first day, Phoebe Yao, plays on the Japan LPGA and Taiwan LPGA tours. She has a combined three professional victories on those tours and is competing in her first team match-play event.
In addition to the two Miyazatos (Ai and Mika, who are not related), the Japanese team features two non-LPGA members in Sakura Yokomine and Mamiko Higa. Yokomine boasts a staggering 22 JLPGA victories, and Higa was the 2013 JLPGA Rookie of the Year. Yokomine tied for seventh at the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst.
Amateur hour: This is a professional event, but Australia’s Minjee Lee will be teeing it up with the legendary Karrie Webb on Thursday. Lee, the world’s top-ranked amateur, won the 2014 Women’s Victorian Open for her first professional title. The 18-year-old won the 2013 and ’14 Australian Women’s Amateur Championships.
Any prize money Lee earns will be split three ways between the rest of the Australian team.