OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The International Crown was fantastic right up until the point when the U.S. got knocked out. That’s not opinion, it’s a fact for all involved – sponsors, fans, TV viewers. Sunday’s rainy forecast for Caves Valley got even gloomier when South Korea eliminated the home team in a sudden-death total score playoff.
The four American players – who admittedly underperformed the first day – walked into the interview room in a mild state of shock. Paula Creamer was all set to walk out on the first tee to Lenny Kravitz’s “American Woman” on Sunday (player’s choice). Instead she’ll probably walk to the mall.
The U.S. was one point away from being tied for the lead in Pool A, but an unlikely loss for Stacy Lewis and Creamer on the 18th to Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum and Onnarin Sattayabanphot put the top-seeded Americans in a playoff with No. 2 seed South Korea.
“I think that everybody, every team should be playing on Sunday,” said Lewis. “I just think it’s too bunched up with the points.”
(Creamer sat next to Lewis nodding her head.)
Only three points separated the first teams (Thailand/Spain) from the last team in Pool A; five points separated the top (Japan) from the bottom (Australia) in Pool B.
While it might sound whiney coming from the Americans, it’s a valid point. The wildcard playoff created incredible drama … but one day early.
“It’s just crazy to think that we’re two points out of the lead of this thing and we’re not able to play tomorrow.”
Australia and Taiwan were also eliminated.
The playoff started on the 16th hole and as the two Koreans rode out to the tee box, Ryu told Park she’d never felt this nervous before in her life. This coming from a woman who won the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open in a playoff.
“Normally if I lose a playoff, everything is just for me and I can handle everything,” said Ryu. “But this time I have to think about Inbee, I.K. (Kim) and Na Yeon (Choi) and all Korean fans and all Korean people.”
Said Park: “I don’t know how I played the hole.”
With long-bombing Thompson representing the U.S., the Koreans knew they were at a disadvantage from that start on the reachable par 5. But Thompson’s approach came up short and her ball rolled down off the green into the back of a sand divot. She had no choice but to putt up the hill and that attempt also came up short. Kerr meanwhile hit the green in two.
Park, who laid up to 70 yards, hit a beautiful shot that spun back toward the hole to 6 feet. Meanwhile Ryu, who went for the green in two, chipped up to 2 feet.
As Kerr’s eagle attempt rolled 4 feet passed the hole, Creamer snapped her fingers incessantly begging for the ball to stop. Top-ranked Lewis sat off the edge of the green with an American flag draped around her shoulders, unable to help the cause.
The unflinching Park rolled in her birdie putt and then Kerr answered. As Ryu set up to a putt that would oust the Americans, many fans already started heading toward the 17th tee. After three days of best-ball competition, it was confusing to many that in the playoff, both scores counted.
Ryu converted her birdie putt to the delight of the Korean faithful. American fans walked away shaking their heads at yet another team disappointment (two Solheim Cup losses and now a Crown).
At least at the Solheim, they are guaranteed a chance to fight back.
“It’s a first-year event and maybe they will look at tweaking some things in the future, because with eight points up for tomorrow, I mean anything can really happen,” said Kerr. “But, hey, there’s going to be winners and there’s going to be losers and we’re on the losing end this time. We played our hearts out. No sour grapes here at all.”