Michelle Wie’s victory Sunday at the U.S. Women’s Open comes with a lot of perks, but a berth on the American team for the International Crown next month isn’t one of them.
Given the dominant run she is on this year, Wie’s participation could bring enormous attention to the new international team event, an Olympic-style competition that will pit eight nations against each other July 24-27 at Caves Valley outside Baltimore, Md.
The eight nations who earned berths were set on Nov. 21, before the last event of the 2013 season. Qualifying to see which four individuals made each team was set on March 31, with the release of the Rolex world rankings following the conclusion of the Kia Classic.
The top four Americans who made the team (and their rankings at the time) were: Stacy Lewis (No. 3), Paula Creamer (No. 8), Lexi Thompson (No. 9) and Cristie Kerr (No. 12). Wie was No. 38 in the world at that time, making her just the 10th-highest ranked American in the world.
Wie moved to No. 7 in the world with her U.S. Women’s Open victory, making her the third-highest ranked American woman today, behind Lewis (No. 1) and Thompson (No. 5). The only way Wie could still make the International Crown is as an alternate, but she’s the sixth alternate for the United States.
It begs a question: Why did the LPGA end individual qualifying so early in the year, almost four months out in front of the event? If qualifying had ended after the U.S. Women’s Open, the most important event of the LPGA season, the drama surrounding qualifying would have added spice to earlier events, and allowed somebody like Wie to make the team with a hot run.
Give Dottie Pepper credit, she questioned the early qualification way back on Jan. 22 in an article for ESPNW.
“This simply is too early and does not assure that those playing the best golf will be representing their countries when the Crown rolls around,” Pepper wrote. “This is like Tom Watson having to finalize his Ryder Cup team, which doesn't compete until late September, somewhere around Memorial Day.”
So why did qualifying end so early?
“It’s a good question,” Heather Daly-Donofrio, LPGA senior vice president of tour operations, told GolfChannel.com. “With the International Crown a new event, without team captains, and with the four players determining everything themselves, we wanted to give players a level of comfort with the logistics, with planning their schedules, given the global nature of the event.
“In wanting to make sure the inaugural event was the best it could be, we thought making the cutoff early would help players get comfortable preparing for the event, and help educate players and fans about the event. There are so many unknowns in putting on a first-time global event like this, in juggling eight teams, getting uniforms and everything else ready.”
Daly-Donofrio said the qualifying times would be addressed once the inaugural event concludes and is evaluated by tour staff.
“Once you’ve gone through the event the first time, you have a better understanding what lead times are needed,” Daly-Donofrio said. “After the event, we will discuss any tweaks we think are needed.”