The LPGA has created a new event that appears to be its own version of the Presidents Cup on the men’s tour. The ladies have the Solheim Cup (biennial matches between the U.S and. Europe, like the Ryder Cup), but the game, especially on the LPGA tour, is an international affair.
Last week the LPGA announced the International Crown, “a first-of-its-kind, biennial, global match play competition commencing in 2014 that will feature teams from eight countries battling for the right to be ‘Crowned’ the world’s best golf nation,” according to the press release.
More from the media blast:
Showcasing the strength of Golf’s Global Tour, this even-year tournament will feature a four-day, match-play format with a total purse of $1.6 million – of which $100,000 will go to each member of the winning team. Each of the eight countries will be represented by four players.
“At the LPGA, we celebrate great players from all over the world on a weekly basis, but this is the first time we’ll pit country versus country for global bragging rights,” said LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan. “Only countries that have produced the best female teams can compete and only four players from any one country will be invited. The International Crown will take women’s golf to the next level and allow fans to rally behind their homelands. In sports, there is simply nothing greater than wearing your nation’s flag, fans singing your national anthem, and bringing the CROWN home.”
The inaugural tournament will debut July 21-27, 2014 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Maryland, outside Baltimore. In 2016, the Crown will be played at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois, host of The 2009 Solheim Cup.
Qualification criteria for the International Crown are:
- Eight teams based on cumulative Rolex Rankings of each country’s top four players at the conclusion of the 2013 CME Group Titleholders
- Four players from each country based on Rolex Rankings at date to be determined.
Whan formally announced the International Crown today at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla. If teams for the Crown were selected according to the current Rolex Rankings, South Korea, the U.S., Japan, Sweden, Australia, Taiwan, Spain and England would battle for the inaugural title.
“Our Tour is so global and we need this type of event,” said Stacy Lewis, the top-ranked American. “People always want to know why golfers from Asia are so good. Well, now we can see how all the countries stack up. The more we can showcase our Tour around the world, the better. Representing your country is the ultimate thing. Getting announced on the first tee when you are representing the USA, it doesn’t get any better than that. It’s a goal of mine to be in the event.”
The format of the International Crown will feature three days of Four Ball matches wherein countries will be seeded into two brackets with four countries in either bracket. Each country will play every other country in their bracket over the course of the first three rounds to determine which five countries will advance to Sunday singles play. All points from the Four Ball matches will carry over to Sunday’s matches where each country will play a singles match against every other country. The total cumulative points for the four days of competition will be used to determine the overall champion.
“It’s like preparing for the Olympics,” said Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng, of Taiwan. “In Taiwan and in Asia, we don’t have a team event like this. This is a good opportunity for us to play for our countries. It’s really going to be awesome. Right now, we have three Taiwanese players that play fulltime on the LPGA Tour. Hopefully in the next two years, we can improve our junior program and get more Taiwanese players on the LPGA. This tournament will really help us with that goal.”
In a unique twist, prior to play on Saturday and Sunday, each team will turn in a sealed envelope with the name of one player who will represent their team if a playoff is necessary to break a tie the following day.
Paige Mackenzie, a member of the LPGA Board of Directors, says it’s kind of like the amateur event, the Spirit Cup.
Sounds like a fun and great concept. The only problem is that only eight countries will be represented, so some of the game’s best will still be left out — like Suzann Pettersen, who is ranked sixth in the world. Because there are only two players ranked in the top 500 from Norway, there aren’t enough players to form a team (four), according to the AP:
Based on this week’s world ranking, three players from the top 15 would not be eligible — Pettersen, Feng and Catriona Matthew of Scotland.
“I was talking about this last year with Suzann Pettersen and she said, `I like the idea, but aren’t you building something I’m not going to be in?” Whan said. “It’s an interesting situation. But we don’t need another event to identify the best in the world. Our tour does that.”
The LPGA Tour years ago had the Lexus Cup, which was designed for the players who couldn’t compete in the Solheim Cup. It never gained much traction, however, with Asia competing against the rest of the world. Whan found it to be far more compelling to have players competing for their own country.
“I’ve been asked many times whether we should add other countries or regions to the Solheim Cup,” he said. “One thing you learn quickly as commissioner when you go to the Solheim Cup is you’re not going to mess with that. … Korea wants to play Japan, not be teammates. This gives the fans what they want.”
Still, it seems like the LPGA has finally found some momentum after enduring a tough time in the past five- six- years due to the tough economic climate. Below is also this year’s schedule, with the season beginning in Australia before heading to Asia again. At first glance, it appears there will be less blackout periods, where the ladies would have months off between tournaments.
Onward and upward!
2013 LPGA schedule
Feb. 14-17: ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open
Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand
Feb. 28-March 3: HSBC Women’s Champions
March 14-17: RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup
March 21-24: Kia Classic
April 4-7: Kraft Nabisco Championship
April 17-20: LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf
April 25-28: North Texas LPGA Shootout
May 2-5: Kingsmill Championship
May 16-19: Mobile Bay LPGA Classic
May 23-26: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic
May 30-June 2: ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer
June 6-9: Wegmans LPGA Championship
June 20-23: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G
June 27-30: U.S. Women’s Open
July 11-14: Manulife Financial LPGA Classic
July 18-21: Marathon Classic Presented By Owens Corning & O-I
Aug. 1-4: Ricoh Women’s British Open
Aug. 15-18: The Solheim Cup
Aug. 22-25: CN Canadian Women’s Open
Aug. 29-Sept 1: Portland Classic Presented by Safeway
Sept. 12-15: The Evian
Oct. 3-6: Reignwood Pine Valley LPGA Classic (Beijing)
Oct. 10-13: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia
Oct. 17-20: KEB Hana Bank Championship
Oct. 24-27: Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship
Nov. 7-10: Mizuno Classic
Nov. 14-17: Lorena Ochoa Invitational
Nov. 21-24: CME Group Titleholders