Whether they admit it or not, Friday’s fourball against Team Spain was critical for Team USA at the 2014 International Crown. After being shut out by Taiwan on day one, another poor showing would have made any dream of winning on Sunday distant at best. With a switch in partners, the United States squad took a huge step in the right direction, earning a maximum 4 points on the day by winning both of their matches. Paula Creamer and Stacy Lewis won 2 Up over Carlota Ciganda and Azahara Munoz while Lexi Thompson and Cristie Kerr never trailed in taking out Belen Mozo and Beatriz Recari 3 & 2. There were smiles and hugs aplenty at the end. The thrill of victory? Yes. But I suspect a bit of relief as well.
The USA team moved into a tie with Taiwan for 2nd place in Pool A with 4 points overall. Vaulting into the lead was Thailand. Taiwan was flying high after sweeping the Americans on day one. On day two Thailand turned the tables on Taiwan by sweeping both matches. Yani Tseng nailed a clutch putt on 18 on day one, but missed a long putt on 18 on day two. Onnarin Sattayabanphot sank her birdie as she and Pornanong Phatlum bested Tseng and Phoebe Yao 1 Up. This followed a win by the Jutanugarn sisters, Ariya and Moriya, over Teresa Lu and Candie Kung 3 & 2. The prevailing thought seems to be that Thailand will be taken down by Team USA on Saturday. That could happpen. But then again, anything could happen. I loved Moo’s (Onnarin) response to a question about whether Team USA will be difficult for Thailand. Her response was it will difficult for both teams and that you never know what could happen, just come and watch.
In Pool B, Japan maintained their lead with 6 points overall. But the story of the day for me was their incredible comeback in the Ai Miyazato/Sakura Yokomine vs Katherine Kirk/Lindsey Wright match. The Australian team of Kirk and Wright looked poised to cruise to victory. They led from the very beginning, winning the first hole. By the 7th hole they were 5 Up and had Japan on the ropes. As they walked off the 11th green, the Aussies led Japan 6 Up with 7 holes to play. It was all but over. But it wasn’t. Japan won 12, 13, 14, 16, 17 and 18 to miraculously salvage a draw and earn 1 point. The highlight was an incredible 40 foot putt from the fringe by Yokomine on 17 to keep the Japanese squad alive in the match. In the other contest, Mamiko Higa and Mika Miyazato upset Hall of Famer Karrie Webb and Minjee Lee 3 & 2.
Australia goes into Saturday still in striking distance of Japan points-wise, as are South Korea and Sweden. The Korean and Swedish teams split their matches on Friday with Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist edging Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu 1 Up while Na Yeon Choi and In Kyung Kim won versus Mikaela Parmlid and Pernilla Lindberg by the same margin. Both matches were razor thin affairs, with neither pairing up by more than 2 holes and the majority of the match durations separated by a lone hole. Coming in South Korea was seen as a threat to win the title, and they just might. They seem to be lurking a little below the surface at the moment as Japan has grabbed the early headlines. However, now we get one of the most anticipated matches for me, South Korea vs Japan. It’s going to be fun!
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1 THAILAND (5 points overall/4 points today) vs T2 TAIWAN (4 points overall/zero points today)
T2 USA (4 points overall/4 points today) vs 4 SPAIN (3 points overall/zero points today)
1 JAPAN (6 points overall/3 points today) vs T4 AUSTRALIA (3 points overall/1 point today)
2 SOUTH KOREA (4 points overall/2 points today) vs T4 SWEDEN (3 points overall/2 points today)