Like the Ryder and Solheim Cup,
minus the obvious restrictions
International Crown: The right way to do multi-national match play
By Torleif Sorenson on 1/25/13
The Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup are, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the highest-profile and most exciting of the international team golf events, but they have one inherent flaw: They exclude golfers from outside the United States and Europe. The Solheim Cup has always excluded Lorena Ochoa, Yani Tseng, Se Ri Pak, and Karrie Webb from the international team. The same problem kept LPGA star Lorie Kane from the U.S. team just because her birth certificate says "Prince Edward Island" rather than her current residence in Florida.

(No offense toward Deane Beman or Tim Finchem, but the Presidents Cup hasn't yet reached a feverish level of excitement and nation-by-nation partisanship.)

For years, I have wondered how a Ryder/Solheim Cup-style, multi-team, match play tournament could work, making sure that players near and far weren't excluded because of their nationality. Also necessary is the hole-by-hole drama often missing from 72-hole medal play events. But making the Solheim Cup "North America vs. the World" lacks a certain provincialism.

The answer: The International Crown.

On Thursday at the PGA Merchandise Show, the LPGA announced this global match play event, which will debut July 21-27, 2014 at Caves Valley Golf Club outside Baltimore. In 2016, the event will be played at Rich Harvest Farms, which hosted the 2009 Solheim Cup.

The eight-team, 32-player field will be determined by the Rolex World Rankings the week of the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship (still referred to by most golf fans as the "Dinah"). The top four players from each of eight pre-qualified nations qualify for their respective team. Three days of bracketed match play will be followed by singles matches on Sunday.

The organizers also thought ahead to the possibility of ties; on Saturday and Sunday, each team will put a player "in the envelope" to play for their country in the event of the need for a tie-breaker.

One player who is looking forward to this kind of pressure and clearly also understands one of the reasons this is worthwhile, is the youngest-ever golfer ever to win five major championships: Yani Tseng:
"It's like preparing for the Olympics. 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 full-time 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."
2012 Player of the Year Stacy Lewis also spoke of the importance of the International Crown:
"Our Tour is so global and we need this type of event. 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."
If the selections were made today, the nations would be, in order of qualification:
  1.   South Korea
  2.   United States
  3.   Japan
  4.   Sweden
  5.  Australia
  6.   Spain
  7.   Taiwan
  8.   England
Yani Tseng is correct in the significance of the 2014 event in the run-up to the Olympics, but given that the Olympic tournament will be a 72-hole medal play event, the International Crown will provide the extra drama of match play.

Here's wondering how long it will take for Commissioner Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour to convert one of their World Golf Championships into this sort of international team match-play format. In this writer's opinion, the ideal event and site would be the Bridgestone in Akron, Ohio, since the original name of that event was the "World Series of Golf." My suggestion to Commissioner Finchem is to turn it back into a truly world series, with the purses distributed by team.

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