Eight teams ready to battle at International Crown

By Randall MellJuly 22, 2014, 1:18 pm

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.

Get ready: LPGA International Crown primer

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.

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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”

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Ball headed O.B., Stone (68) gets huge break

By Mercer BaggsJuly 19, 2018, 2:14 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brandon Stone knew it when he hit it.

“I knew I hit it out of bounds,” the South African said following his opening round in the 147th Open Championship.

Stone’s second shot on the par-4 18th, from the left fescue, was pulled into the grandstands, which are marked as O.B. But instead of settling in with the crowd, the ball ricocheted back towards the green and nearly onto the putting surface.

Stone made his par and walked away with a 3-under 68, two shots off the early lead.

“I really didn’t put a good swing on it, bad contact and it just came out way left,” Stone said. “I feel so sorry for the person I managed to catch on the forehead there, but got a lucky break.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“When you get breaks like that you know you’re going to have good weeks.”

It’s been more than just good luck recently for Stone. He shot 60 in the final round – missing a 9-foot birdie putt for the first 59 in European Tour history – to win last week’s Scottish Open. It was his third career win on the circuit and first since 2016. It was also just his first top-10 of the season.

“A testament to a different mental approach and probably the change in putter,” said Stone, who added that he switched to a new Ping Anser blade model last week.

“I’ve been putting, probably, the best I have in my entire life.”

This marks Stone’s sixth start in a major championship, with his best finish a tie for 35th in last year’s U.S. Open. He has a missed cut and a T-70 in two prior Open Championships.