The International Crown on the LPGA Tour has all the trappings of the best team event in golf until the Olympics in 2016. And considering there will be no team medal awarded in Rio, the LPGA event might be the best team format in golf after the Olympics.
The US team nudged South Korea as the top seed for the International Crown, which features eight teams of four players from July 24 to 27 at Caves Valley in Maryland.
The combined world ranking of the four US players — Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson and Cristie Kerr — added up to 32. South Korea’s ranking added up to 33 with Inbee Park, Ryu So-yeon, Choi Na-yeon and I.K. Kim.
Japan is the No. 3 seed with 131 points, illustrating a large gap after the top two countries. The other teams are Taiwan, Thailand, Spain, Sweden and Australia.
A new tournament, which required more planning than usual, means England and teen star Charley Hull will have to sit this one out.
The eight teams were locked in when the International Crown was announced in November last year. England’s four best players amounted to No. 9.
Over the past four months, Hull won her first pro tournament on the Ladies European Tour and her ranking went from No. 119 to No. 67. Holly Clyburn moved up 23 spots to No. 98 with two good finishes. If the teams were determined on Sunday — the cut-off for players — England would have been the No. 7 team and Australia would be out.
However, there were reasons for teams to be locked in eight months in advance: sponsorship, promotion and television.
“If we waited until later, you can’t knock on someone’s door and say: ‘How would you like to support the International Crown in three weeks?’” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said on Tuesday. “And we wanted to make sure we had quality television deals in the countries that are playing... We have good TV deals. But this event is more significant for a lot of countries than a regular tour event.”
He plans to start announcing some of the sponsors this week at the LPGA’s first major of the year.
As for players who qualify for the teams, Whan said he could see moving the deadline back as the International Crown gets more traction. However, for the first year, he thought it was important for players to have more than enough time to build their schedules around it. These are not just LPGA players; eight of the 32 players who qualified for the International Crown are not LPGA members.
Three players from the top 10 in the world will not be at Caves Valley because their countries did not have enough highly ranked players: Suzann Pettersen (Norway), Lydia Ko (New Zealand) and Feng Shanshan (China).
Whan expects there to be some flaws and he would be prepared to identify them after the first year.
“When you bring a brand new idea to the game, be prepared to be critiqued. And on the flip side, reach each one and don’t be put off,” he said. “‘New’ doesn’t come easily.”