Players jazzed for new team event
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Everybody, come on in.
Moving beyond the exclusivity of the Solheim Cup's United States vs. Europe format, the LPGA has introduced the International Crown, an eight-country competition that women's golf believes will spread the passion of national team play across the globe.
With the 32-golfer lineup (eight four-player teams) just announced for the event to be played in July in Owings Mills, Md., golfers at this week's Kraft Nabisco Championship, the year's first major, on Tuesday were quick to imagine the new challenges and opportunities.
"It's going to be a great experience to finally represent your country professionally,'' Spain's Beatriz Recari said.
"I think it's going to be good memories, and also playing for your country professionally puts that little extra pressure.''
I think USA [the No. 1 seed] has a lot of pressure now. But it's all fun for each other, for each country. We feel like honored to play the tournament. I'm really looking forward to that tournament.Na Yeon Choi
Candie Kung, who along with former world No. 1 Yani Tseng will play for Chinese Taipei, agreed.
"It's a fun event for us," she said. "I feel honored to be part of Chinese Taipei. I didn't even know we had a fourth player 'til late last year. But we're all looking forward to it. We're all very excited. This is actually the first time that we get to play in a team event, to represent Chinese Taipei in an international event, so we're looking forward to it.''
With the eight teams and rosters determined by the Rolex World Rankings, the United States earned the No. 1 seed with team members Stacy Lewis (ranked No. 3), Paula Creamer (No. 8), Lexi Thompson (No. 9) and Cristie Kerr (No. 12). South Korea, powered by Inbee Park (No. 1), So Yeon Ryu (sixth), Na Yeon Choi (11th) and I.K. Kim (15th), took the No. 2 seed, a single Rolex World Rankings point behind.
Let the gamesmanship begin.
"I think all the Korean players have some pressure, extra pressure than normal LPGA tournament players," Choi said, referencing her country's passion for women's golf.
"We just finished the No. 2 seed after last week, so I just talked with Inbee and So Yeon and I.K. We feel a little less pressure than before. I think USA has a lot of pressure now. But it's all fun for each other, for each country. We feel like honored to play the tournament. I'm really looking forward to that tournament.''
Lewis had a quick response: "The South Koreans are good at downplaying everything."
There will be two pools with three days of competition leading up to a final day of match play to determine a champion. Pool A will feature the United States, Thailand, Spain and Australia. Pool B is made up of South Korea, Japan, Sweden and Chinese Taipei.
And to the winner will go a specially designed trophy, created by Tiffany & Co. Weighing 23 pounds and standing 23 inches in height, the trophy took 165 hours to develop.
An interesting twist to the event is there will be no team captains. Each team's four members must map their own strategy.
"We actually haven't talked about it as a team yet," Australia's Karrie Webb said. "I think it's only four girls. I don't think there's big decisions to be made. I don't think there's going to be a huge amount of strategy to it. But it will just be fun. Obviously, I have the most experience as far as how long I've been out here and the career I've had. Hopefully that might trickle down and we all play really well that week.''
"I don't know. I mean, I think if there were more players, there would need to be kind of a leader role. I think with four, we all respect each other enough and we know each other's games well enough. I think the four of us on our team, we already know what we're going to do as far as pairingswise.
"I don't really see it being too much of a challenge. For us it will be a little bit more relaxed than a Solheim Cup would be."