OWINGS MILLS, Md. – What a difference a day makes. The Americans went from shut out to clean sweep on Day 2 of the International Crown, posting four points to sit in a tie for second with Taiwan in Pool A. Thailand, a team of smiles, leads way in that pool with five points.
It was more than a moral victory for Team USA. Imagine what Sunday at Caves Valley would look like with no home team?
“We needed that little bit of a wake‑up call,” said Paula Creamer.
Stacy Lewis gathered the team on the range Friday morning and gave a little pep talk, encouraging her teammates to fight and grind out there while having fun.
Lewis and Creamer didn’t take control of their match against Spain until the seventh hole but held on tight til the 18th.
Creamer jokingly credited a handshake with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps for a mid-round inspiration.
“We talked about that for two holes, you know,” Creamer said, beaming.
There’s still plenty of work to do. Only the top two teams from each pool automatically advance. Teams in third place will have a two-person, sudden-death playoff on Saturday to determine the fifth spot. The last three teams in both pools are separated by one point.
The American players likened Caves Valley to a major championship venue. Even bomber Lexi Thompson called it long.
Nonetheless, Thompson hit a 7-iron into the par-5 12th and drained the putt for eagle to give the U.S. a 3-up lead over Spain it never relinquished. Thompson and Kerr dusted Belen Mozo and Beatriz Recari, 3 and 2, to give Team USA its first points of the competition.
“I thought Lexi and I had a lot of chemistry out there together,” said Kerr. “We played with a lot of heart for each other.”
Japan, bolstered by a dramatic six-hole comeback in the last seven holes, leads Pool B and all teams with six points while Korea sits in second with four.
Katherine Kirk and Lindsey Wright, two former Pepperdine teammates, had a commanding six-hole advantage with seven holes to play but squandered it away. Consider that Japan won the 14th hole with bogey.
On the par-3 17th, Sakura Yokomine drained a 50-foot birdie putt to extend the match to the 18th. It didn’t take much to seal the deal. Wright hit her second shot into the creek and Kirk missed the hole by miles with her par attempt.
“We apparently went on safari on the back nine,” Kirk said.
The Aussies shot 31-39 in the best-ball format.
Wright said the group was put on the clock on the 12th hole. They lost their timing “and that was pretty much it.”
For Japan, it was a day of patience.
“We said that every hole is an extra bonus,” said Ai Miyazato, whose only birdie of the day came on 17. “It just happened. It was just amazing.”
Caroline Hedwall put up the day’s best individual performance, notching two eagles and three birdies. The powerful Swede became the first player in Solheim Cup history to go 5-0 last year in Colorado.
Hedwall drove the par-4, 282-yard fifth hole and was conceded the 4-foot eagle putt. On the par-5 12th, she drained a lengthy eagle putt.
“I think I’m just aggressive player and when I play match play, I can really play aggressive because I can only lose a hole, you know,” said Hedwall. “While when I play stroke play, maybe I just get a little insecure.”
Next up for the Americans is the Thai team, whose best player is 18-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn, younger sister to LPGA sophomore Moriya. The two sisters have paired together the first three days, earning three points, and will give fans more of the same on Saturday.
“Today we were trying to beat each other,” Moriya said.
Ariya clarifies: “Before I tee off, I say I’m going to make birdie. And she says, ‘No, I’m going to make birdie, too.’ ”
Such competitive banter is all these two know, and they will surely give the Americans a tough battle.
Rounding out Team Thailand is a pair of lesser-known players in Onnarin “Moo” Sattayabanphot and Pornanong Phatlum. Sattayabanphot played at Purdue and makes her living on the Japan LPGA. Phatlum is known on the LPGA as the player who matches her caddie/brother in wild attire and black leggings.
On paper, Thailand is the obvious underdog, but Taiwan proved on Thursday that even the lowest seed can topple the Yanks.
One thing is certain: The Thai players aren’t scared.
“Team Thailand and the Americans, you never know tomorrow,” said Sattayabanphot. “Just come and watch.”