Team USA came into the 2014 International Crown as the top seed among the eight teams. They left with an increasingly familiar storyline of defeat in team competition. The Americans have lost the past two Solheim Cups, including last year’s lopsided 18-10 drubbing. However, that loss has been cited by players as the springboard to the success in the 2014 LPGA season enjoyed by American players. Still, solo success has not translated into group success. With the mathematical possibilities shifting throughout the day, in the end the Americans needed at least a win and a draw against Thailand to advance outright. They captured the win when Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson took out the Jutanugarn sisters, Ariya and Moriya, 3 & 2. But they ran into an inspired Pornanong Phatlum in their second match of the day. Except for finding water on 17, Waen was the rock for Thailand on this day. She and Onnarin Sattayabanphot were able to edge Paula Creamer and Stacy Lewis 1 Up to leave Team USA in third place in Pool A. Only the top two teams automatically advance. To play on Sunday, the Americans would have to beat the third place finisher from Pool B, South Korea, in a sudden death playoff on hole 16.
With the American and Korean teams forced into a playoff, the International Crown was assured of losing one of its top two seeds before Sunday. In this sudden death format, both team players had to complete their shots to decide the winner. After Inbee Park and Cristie Kerr traded birdies while Lexi Thompson missed her birdie attempt, So Yeon Ryu would close the door on Team USA with a birdie putt to get to the last day. Maybe there’s no rhyme or reason to these losses. Maybe it’s just a bad stretch of team events. But clearly the USA has put together some very strong squads. This American team for the International Crown was the only team with all four members being LPGA Major winners. They just have come up short lately. I still believe in them, as I did after the 2013 Solheim Cup loss. They will be back in the winner’s circle soon enough. But on this day, it was South Korea and Thailand moving on.
Also advancing was Japan, Sweden and Spain. Japan led Pool B from day one through day three, ending with 8 points overall. Sakura Yokomine continued to make dazzling shots, including an eagle from the fairway, as she and Ai Miyazato took down Na Yeon Choi and In Kyung Kim of South Korea 3 & 2. Mamika Higa and Mika Miyazato fell to Inbee and So Yeon 4 & 3, but Team Japan didn’t need that match in the end. Sweden punched their ticket with two emphatic victories (5 & 3 and 7 & 5) over Australia. I don’t think Lindsey Wright and Katherine Kirk of Australia really recovered from blowing a six shot lead with seven holes to play against Japan the previous day. Sweden was hungry and the Aussies were a bit flat. The outcome was never in doubt. The Spanish team of Carlota Ciganda and Azahara Munoz easily handled Yani Tseng and Phoebe Yao of Taiwan. Candie Kung and Teresa Lu, who like Yokomine had an eagle from the fairway, made it close against Belen Mozo and Beatriz Recari but ultimately the Taiwanese fell 1 Up. After defeating the USA in both matches on day one, it was a disappointing end for Taiwan. Meanwhile, Spain and Sweden, who had key players in the 2013 Solheim Cup win for Europe, both look strong going into the final day of the International Crown.
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TEAM JAPAN (8 points)
THAILAND (7 points)
SPAIN (7 points)
SWEDEN (7 points)
SOUTH KOREA (6 points)