The normally stoic Inbee Park buries a putt to win a crucial point in the International Crown and throws a fist pump with fire in her eyes.
If you don’t think that’s possible this week, you don’t know how much the South Koreans are looking forward to the new team event.
Na Yeon Choi can see the International Crown drawing out nationalistic fervor in the women’s game that we usually only see at the Solheim Cup.
The LPGA’s new international team event begins Thursday with pride and passion promising to percolate among players eager to win for their countries at Caves Valley Golf Club outside Baltimore, Md.
“Our playing style is quite quiet, not really big reactions, or fist pumps,” Choi said. “But I think we’re really excited about the golf tournament, so I expect we’re going to let a few out, and more aggressive playing.”
The International Crown is the Solheim Cup times four. It’s eight countries battling to lay claim as the world’s best golfing nation in the women’s game.
“This is our version of the Presidents Cup,” said American Stacy Lewis, the Rolex world No. 1. “I think we needed to get the rest of the world involved, but you can’t change the Solheim Cup. It has too many traditions.
“I like this concept. I like how it brings all the countries together.”
The United States beat out the South Koreans in qualifying for the No. 1 seed in the event, which will feature four-player teams in best-ball and singles competition over four days. Japan, Thailand, Spain, Sweden, Australia and Chinese Taipei also qualified. The top four players in the Rolex world rankings from each qualifying nation made the teams, with the rosters announced back in April. There are no team captains, which leaves players to work out their own lineups.
“I’m always jealous watching the Solheim Cup,” Australian Lindsey Wright said. “I wish it was me. It looks like so much fun.”
Ten years in the works at the LPGA, with multiple versions of the event evolving, the International Crown takes advantage of one of the tour’s strengths, a truly global membership.
Two years ahead of golf’s return to the Olympics, the International Crown heightens women’s anticipation of Olympic competition.
“You’ll get a sense of it when you put on the uniforms,” Spain’s Beatriz Recari said. “You don’t know how much it means until you put on that polo shirt with the flag on it and really see. This is an amazing thing, and I really want to be a part of it in the Olympics in two years’ time.”
The International Crown’s eight teams have been divided into two pools, with round-robin pool play determining who advances to Sunday’s finale.
In Pool A, there’s the United States, Thailand, Spain and Chinese Taipei. In Pool B, there’s the Republic of Korea, Japan, Sweden and Australia. Each country will compete against the other countries within its pool in two-player, best-ball matches. Each victory is worth two points, with a tie worth one point.
At the end of pool play, the top two teams from each pool advance to Sunday. Also, a fifth team will advance after a sudden-death playoff on Saturday evening between the third-best team from each pool.
Ultimately, that means five teams (20 players) will advance to Sunday singles. That sets up 10 singles matches, with each player from a particular country pitted against a player from another country.
For example, if the United States advances, Stacy Lewis could end up playing against a player from South Korea, Lexi Thompson against a player from Japan, Cristie Kerr against a player from Thailand and Paula Creamer against a player Spain.
In the end, the team with the most points over four days wins the International Crown.