INCHEON, South Korea – There’s a sense of build-up here at the UL International Crown. What started as a shockingly low turnout on the first tee for the England vs. Australia match-up swelled exponentially as the team from South Korea made its way onto the tee.
The host nation’s hero – Se Ri Pak – raised the South Korean flag to the delight of everyone. Pak was buzzing over the atmosphere of the event, calling it more intense than the President’s Cup. The stoic Sung Hyun Park thought her heart might burst on the spot.
The crowd following the South Korean players – all major winners – grew as the day wore on. Park commanded the biggest gallery, and when she drained an eagle putt on the drivable 14th, the high-pitched reaction from Korea supporters had to be the most deafening noise on tour this season.
South Korea swept the first session to lead the overall points race with four. The eighth-seeded Chinese Taipei put up a strong fight, taking both matches to the 18th hole. There’s a feeling that each day here will be better than the last, a crescendo that ends in an absolute frenzy should South Korea win.
Mother Nature, however, has other ideas. With Typhoon Kong-Rey posing a significant weather threat, LPGA officials have moved up Friday’s tee times (Thursday night in the U.S.) in an effort to get in as much golf as possible in the event that Saturday becomes a washout.
Incheon is 13 hours ahead of the Eastern U.S. Time Zone.
The Japan vs. Sweden match gets underway at 7:05 a.m. Friday local time (8:05 p.m. Eastern Thursday), with Round 3 starting in the afternoon. South Korea will tee off last again, this time against Australia, beginning at 8:35 a.m. local time.
The LPGA’s official forecast calls for light rain to begin around 9 a.m. on Friday local time, with more widespread showers in the afternoon. Rain is expected to continue through Saturday afternoon, with rainfall totals likely to exceed 2 inches.
Sustained winds of 27 m.p.h. are expected to come from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time on Saturday, with the strongest gusts between 35 and 40 m.p.h.
Mercifully, Sunday’s forecast is dry.
Both England and Thailand posted three points apiece to take a share of second. Team USA and Sweden added two points, while Japan and Australia notched one. Chinese Taipei was the only team shut out.
All eight teams kept their lineups the same for the second round of four-balls. The South Koreans practiced with every possible combination in the days leading up to the Crown so that they could change at any moment, though so far there’s no need. Six of the eight matches on Thursday went to the 18th hole.
Two-time major champion So Yeon Ryu said having a round on home soil under their belts should ease the pressure going into Friday’s marathon.
“I’m glad that I looked like I was enjoying myself because I was actually very nervous,” said In Gee Chun of the first-tee jitters. “So Yeon tried to help me relax, but I think going to the first hole I was able to laugh a little bit. Having birdied the first hole, I think that really boosted me afterward. But I think I was really nervous and what I tried to do was I tried to turn that tension into something positive for our team.”
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Round 2 Pairings
(All Times Eastern. Time on site is 13 hours ahead of New York.)
Pool B – Japan (JPN) vs. Sweden (SWE)
8:05 p.m. – Misuzu Narita/Mamiko Higa (JPN) vs. Anna Nordqvist/Caroline Hedwall (SWE)
8:20 p.m. – Ayako Uehara/Nasa Hataoka (JPN) vs. Pernilla Lindberg/Madelene Sagstrom (SWE)
Pool B – United States (USA) vs. Thailand (THA)
8:35 p.m. – Jessica Korda/Michelle Wie (USA) vs. Moriya Jutanugarn/Pornanong Phatlum (THA)
8:50 p.m. – Cristie Kerr/Lexi Thompson (USA) vs. Ariya Jutanugarn/Sherman Santiwiwattahanaphong (THA)
Pool A – England (ENG) vs. Chinese Taipei (TPE)
9:05 p.m. – Charley Hull/Georgia Hall (ENG) vs. Wei-Ling Hsu/Teresa Lu (TPE)
9:20 p.m. – Bronte Law/Jodi Ewart Shadoff (ENG) vs. Candie Kung/Phoebe Yao (TPE)
Pool A – Republic of Korea (KOR) vs. Australia (AUS)
9:35 p.m. – So Yeon Ryu/In Gee Chun (KOR) vs. Minjee Lee/Sarah Jane Smith (AUS)
9:50 p.m. – Sung Hyun Park/In-Kyung Kim (KOR) vs. Su Oh/Katherine Kirk (AUS)
Round 2 TV
Golf Channel – Thursday (9 p.m. – 3 a.m.)