Teams take shape for International Crown

Yani Tseng, left, and Candie Kung will be teammates for Taiwan in the 2014 International Crown at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. (shown here during the 2012 Sybase Match Play).

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Candie Kung didn’t even know her country had a fourth player until late last year. Taiwan qualified as the seventh-seeded team with Hsuan-Yu Yao, a non-member who plays in China, joining LPGA veterans Yani Tseng, Teresa Lu and Kung for the inaugural International Crown.

“This is actually the first time that we actually get to play in a team event, to represent Chinese Taipei in an international event,” Kung said Tuesday at Mission Hills Country Club, site of this week's Kraft Nabisco Championship. “So we're looking forward to it.”

Taiwan (the disputed island nation is known in mainland China by its capital city, Taipei) is one of eight teams that qualified for the inaugural biennial event, to be held June 24-27 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. The U.S. overtook South Korea for the top seed last Sunday at the Kia Classic when Lexi Thompson birdied the 18th hole. South Korea had led the worldwide race since the event was announced in January 2013, starting off with a 24-point advantage.

“We feel a little less pressure than before,” said South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi. “I think USA has a lot of pressure now.”

The eight teams were divided into two pools based on the cumulative team total of the four players’ Rolex Rankings. The U.S. (No. 1), Thailand (4), Spain (5) and Australia (8) compose Pool A. South Korea (2), Japan (3), Sweden (6) and Taiwan (7) make up Pool B.

The countries will play two, four-ball matches among each of the other three teams in their respective pool on Saturday. The top two countries automatically advance, and one wild-card country will advance into Sunday via a sudden-death playoff between teams that finish third in each pool

To determine which players compete in the playoff, teams will put the names of two players in an envelope before the start of the day’s matches.

Sunday will consist of 10 singles matches. The country with the highest point total wins the crown. Should there be a tie, teams again would go to the envelope.

“I think that's where it gets tricky,” American Stacy Lewis said. “That's where I think you could have more drama than anything. I think everybody on the team would want to be that person.”

Of note:

• Cristie Kerr edged Lizette Salas for the fourth spot on Team USA. She'll join Lexi Thompson, Paula Creamer and Lewis.

• There’s an amateur on Australia’s four-player team. Minjee Lee, 17, the world’s top-ranked amateur, joins the field’s most veteran player, Karrie Webb. Former Pepperdine teammates Katherine Hull-Kirk and Lindsey Wright round out the Aussie lineup.

“We'll do our best to maybe ruffle a few feathers as the underdog,” Webb said.

• Three players on the Swedish team were on the winning 2008 World Amateur Team Championship: Caroline Hedwall, Anna Nordqvist and Pernilla Lindberg.

• Thailand’s pairings already are set. Moriya Jutanugarn, 19, said she will pair with younger sister Ariya, 18.

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