They spoke confidently of their chances early in the week and they backed up the talk in emphatic fashion. Team Spain, consisting of Azahara Munoz, Beatriz Recari, Belen Mozo and Carlota Ciganda, rolled to victory on the final day of the 2014 International Crown. They came into the competition as the 5th seed. After the first three days of fourball, they were reseeded to #2 for singles after topping Pool A. They finished the inaugural team event as the clear #1. If they wanted to send a message on Sunday that they meant business, it was clearly sent in their first singles match as Carlota Ciganda absolutely crushed 2012 US Women’s Open winner Na Yeon Choi of South Korea 8 & 6. 8 & 6 over NYC! Wow. That was hard to believe. Beatriz Recari kept the momentum going for the Spanish quartet by taking out the pregnant Mikaela Parmlid of Sweden 3 & 2. It seems Mikaela is transitioning into the next phase of her golfing life. We might not see much of her as a player in the coming years, but maybe as a coach or teaching pro. I thought Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand had a chance against Belen Mozo and to be truthful Mo played well had it been stroke play. But Mozo won holes when she needed to, taking the match from Jutanugarn 3 & 2. It was that win that clinched the International Crown for Spain. It no longer mattered what happen with Azahara Munoz in the singles finale against Japan’s Ai Miyazato. But just for good measure, Aza completed the four match sweep by winning 2 & 1.
One thing I take away from International Crown is how much it meant to each country. I thought it might be a big deal to teams that can’t play Solheim Cup and it was. Many of the women talked about almost crying at the beginning when hearing their national anthems played. A player like Inbee Park, who has won Majors and LPGA Player of the Year talking about never feeling so much pressure before speaks volumes. I focused particularly on teams like South Korea, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and Australia. Perhaps I underestimated the meaning to teams like Spain and Sweden. Some of their players have played in Solheim Cup, but as part of Europe. Sure, they waved their individual flags after winning but to come into an event representing only your own country, to fight for only one flag…that’s something only the United States experiences in Solheim Cup.
One last thing I would add is that I hope the LPGA does not change the format. Not only do I think this format is great, I am also in agreement with others who think this would be a great format for the Olympics. That’s a separate discussion. The bottom line is that the complaints about the format seem to primarily be coming from the United States team. I feel like we’ve been a bad host with such complaints. Had our team won this event, I don’t think we’d be hearing any belly-aching. If the format gets “tweaked”, I think the risk exists that it will look like the event is being rigged to the whims of the Americans. I think we need to stop bemoaning the format and just admit Team USA came out flat against Taiwan and were beaten in both matches by a team that didn’t win another point. If the US squad managed just a split with Taiwan there would be no need to worry about sudden death tiebreak formats or how closely the scores were bunched up after three days.
- Match 25: Park (KOR) defeated Hedwall (SWE), 4 & 2
- Match 26: Phatlum (THA) defeated Kim (KOR), 1 up
- Match 27: Lindberg (SWE) defeated A. Jutanugarn (THA), 6 & 5
- Match 28: Ciganda (ESP) defeated Choi (KOR), 8 & 6
- Match 29: Ryu (KOR) defeated Yokomine (JPN), 1 up
- Match 30: Recari (ESP) defeated Parmlid (SWE), 3 & 2
- Match 31: Nordqvist (SWE) defeated Higa (JPN), 3 & 2
- Match 32: Mozo (ESP) defeated M. Jutanugarn (THA), 3 & 2
- Match 33: M. Miyazato (JPN) defeated Sattayabanphot (THA), 3 & 1
- Match 34: Muñoz (ESP) defeated A. Miyazato (JPN), 2 & 1
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TEAM SPAIN (15 points)