Team England takes advantage in rainy UL International Crown
INCHEON, South Korea -- It rained Friday at the UL International Crown. It rained and it rained and it rained some more.
Typhoon Kong-rey is heading toward the Korean peninsula. The worst of the wind is expected to miss the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club, but the rain that the storm is dragging across the East China Sea sloshed the course, soaked the golfers and drenched the fans.
It was not the heaviest rain anyone has ever seen, but it refused to cease and made life difficult on a day when organizers tried to cram in as much action as possible, fully aware that Saturday will almost certainly witness no play because of high wind and yet more rain.
After three rounds, the top two teams from each pool and one wild-card team will advance to the singles event. The team collecting the most points over the four days wins the title. Teams get two points for a win and one if the match is halved.
So the third session of fourballs began mid-afternoon and the last of the matches saw local heroes So Yeon Ryu and In Gee Chun matched against the English duo of Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Bronte Law in Pool A.
For the Englishwomen, the task appeared formidable. Not only were they taking on a pair of major championship winners who had the support of the diehard fans, Ryu and Chun also arrived on the tee with a 100 percent win record for the week.
But so did Ewart Shadoff and Law. In fact, in chalking up a 4-and-3 victory over the Australians on Day 1 and a morning thrashing of their Chinese Taipei opponents, 6-and-4, they had significantly bettered the Korean pair's tighter wins of 2-up and 2-and-1.
Moreover there were all those showers. It had dampened the spirits of the crowds and left many players hidden within rain jackets and beneath umbrellas.
But what was a disincentive to many was something of a boost for this pair that is not only English, but from England's north, where resilience in high wind and driving rain is not only a necessity, but a badge of honor.
On the first tee, Law was accidentally announced as "Bronte Hall." Law brushed the mistake away and smacked her drive down the middle, pitched close and holed the birdie putt for a half after Chun had made it a necessity. There was minimum of fuss with the conversion, just the suggestion that she took a bit of a thrill in prompting a sigh of disappointment from the crowd.
After the second hole, the rain briefly increased in intensity, there were still no umbrellas for the English pair. Why would there be? A bit of wind and rain counts as camping weather in the north of England, those rain jackets flapping in the breeze merely a fond reminder of wet tents and weekends by the coast.
All the same, neither could match Chun's second birdie of the day, and they went 1 down.
At the 549-yard, par-5 third, straight into the wind and with rain-soaked fairways, Law alone made the green in regulation yet the hole was halved and the deficit remained.
Not for long.
Law missed the green at the par-4 fourth, then rattled the pin with her birdie chip and marched back down the fairway afterward, staring upward, furious at fate for denying her.
With a par in the bag, Ewart Shadoff had free aim at a winning birdie and made it. Moments later, Law dropped a 10-foot birdie for the win at the par-3 fifth and thrust her fist at the hole as it dropped.
The match was turned on its head, and Law refused to be deterred.
Neither English player could land the green of the 446-yard par-4 sixth, but no matter. Law escaped a deep greenside bunker and wasted little time with her hole- and par-saving 10-foot putt. You sensed she relished such examinations every bit as much as the birdie effort 10 minutes earlier.
Whether true or not, it went the same way: Front of the cup, bottom of the hole and walked in with a punch of delight.
"I love match play," she said on Tuesday. "I like looking at my opponent in the eye. I like making the most of situations. I like the tactics of it."
The match was never going to be completed on this day, but it would have been more satisfying if it had not been halted with the South Koreans facing two birdie putts of eight feet at the par-5 seventh and Ewart Shadoff having one of her own.
It was dark, but not so dark you couldn't see the hole, yet the South Koreans opted to mark their balls and return in the morning. Law was left champing at the bit.
Ryu admitted afterwards that she was glad of the opportunity to call it a day. England holds a 1-up lead through six.
"We were very tired out there, and Jodi and Bronte were in great form," she said. "To break off at that stage might be good for us and give us an advantage when we return.
"They were definitely on top, and the weather was quite like England, so perhaps that's why they played so well."
In truth (and Ryu knows it), the two have proved themselves in good weather as well as bad and although their compatriots Georgia Hall and Charley Hull are trailing Sung Hyun Park and In Kyung Kim 4-down through eight, success for Law/Ewart Shadoff can still confirm English qualification for the singles from Pool A.
They are a tight-knit bunch, three of whom (Hull, Hall and Law) have known each other for over 10 years. They have won team events across the globe, and at some stage this weekend they might have the opportunity to add the UL International Crown to their accomplishments.