You can read all about day 1 of the International Crown over at LPGA.com, so I’ll focus here on my own observations, having just caught up on Golf Channel’s coverage on ye olde DVR (I’m busily trying to get my handicap back low enough to be allowed to try qualifying for the New York State Golf Association’s Mid-Amateur Championship, so had to watch the 2nd half on tape after hitting 11 greens at The Links at Ivy Ridge but still only shooting a 79).
Any Given Thursday. I never would have pegged Team Taiwan to be the top point-getter on day 1, shutting out Team USA! But Teresa Lu and Candie Kung played fantastic team golf in crushing Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer, and 1st Ya Ni Tseng, then Phoebe Yao, then Tseng made birdies when it counted in eking out a win over Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson. Incredible! And who would have thought Mika Miyazato would birdie 3 of her 1st 5 holes to get Team Japan off to a great start against Team Sweden’s aces, Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall? In fact, Mikan and Mamiko Higa were 2-up with 6 holes to play and withstood a late charge by the Solheim Cup’s Vikings to get the halve when Nordqvist hit a 7-foot birdie attempt through the break on the tough 18th hole.
It’s All About the Teamwork. Team Spain showed the way to play best-ball golf today. Munoz and Ciganda cruised against a struggling Pornanong Phatlum and Onnarin Sattayabanphot, with each ASU teammate contributing key birdies. And Belen Mozo came through in the clutch to help Beatriz Recari eke out a point when it looked like the Jutanugarn sisters might beat them. Gotta also love the chemistry between Karrie Webb and Minjee Lee and Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu. On the downside, both Team USA’s pairs came out flat, so I think switching them up for Friday is a good idea. And Na Yeon Choi and In-Kyung Kim will need to find some better vibes as the week goes on.
Let’s Hear it for the Kids! Minjee Lee, Phoebe Yao, Moriya Jutanugarn. Some of the youngest players in the tournament played the best yesterday. And even Lexi Thompson, Ariya Jutanugarn, and Mamiko Higa played pretty decently.
Let’s Hear it for the Anchors! So Yeon Ryu, Teresa Lu, Sakura Yokomine. It’s not like they carried their teammates for the entire matches they were in (Inbee Park, Candie Kung, and Ai Miyazato made contributions here and there), but it’s obvious that they came through when their teams needed them the most.
Looking Ahead to Friday’s Matches. USA-Spain is going to get the most attention from the Golf Channel crew, but for my money, I think Japan-Australia is going to be fascinating. Ai-sama and Yokomine absolutely have to beat Katherine Kirk and Lindsey Wright, while Mikan and Higa will have to play great again to hang with Karrie Webb and Minjee Lee. The Okinawa-centric Japanese team needs to rack up as many points as possible before they play Team Korea on Saturday.
The ROK crew’s underdogs are also in a must-win situation: NYC and Inky need to build up some confidence against Pernilla Lindberg and Mikaela Parmlid, especially if Nordqvist and Hedwall bring their A-games against Park and Ryu (this is probably the single best match of the day on paper).
The next-best match of the day in my book is the Azahara Munoz-Carlota Ciganda vs. Stacy Lewis-Paula Creamer showdown. Assuming Lexi Thompson and Cristie Kerr can take it to Beatriz Recari and Belen Mozo (a big if after Thursday’s play, I have to admit), Lewis and Creamer have a chance to turn the entire week around for Team USA if they can knock off Spain’s aces.
Likely to be lost in the shuffle in tomorrow’s coverage is Team Taiwan. But they can put themselves in great position if they can kick Team Thailand while they’re down. Lu and Kung lead off against the Jutanugarn sisters, while Tseng and Yao get a shot at Phatlum and Sattayabanphot. On paper, the Lu and Kung have an advantage over their opponents, while Tseng and Yao ought to be underdogs against theirs, but if momentum means anything, I’d say Taiwan has the best chance of anyone to be the top point-getter after day 2.
Remember, the team with the most points at the end of all the matches wins, so points tomorrow matter just the same as points on the weekend. A good Friday for Taiwan can almost certainly knock Thailand out of singles play on Sunday. The pressure will be on Nordqvist and Hedwall to keep Team Sweden’s hopes of playing on Sunday alive.
If all goes as I expect, here’s how the standings in each pool will look heading into the weekend:
[Update 1 (12:42 am): Here’s a little link love for Tony Jesselli, Ruthless Mike, and Centurion.]
[Update 2 (7:24 am): And here’s bangkokbobby and Ruthless Mike on day 1!]
[Update 3 (7:54 am): Ron Sirak. In the house! Twice.]