Back in January, LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan made what I think was the most important announcement of his entire tenure as Commissioner. He announced the details of a new tournament, beginning in 2014, called the International Crown. What made this so different from the several other new tournaments that he had previously announced? It gives all players, no matter what country they are from, the chance to represent their country in an Olympic type event.
Before this was announced the only competition between countries that the LPGA had on its schedule was the Solheim Cup. A competition between the United States and Europe. As a resident of the United States, it was my favorite tournament of the year. At the tournament's completion, it always made me sad that we had to wait two more years before it would be played again. But in truth, I was lucky that at least I got to see my country play. That could not be said for fans of players from South Korea, Japan, Australia, Thailand, and many other countries whose players could not compete.
Why shouldn't players like Ai Miyazato, Na Yeon Choi, Yani Tseng, and Pornanong Phatlum have an oppurtunity to play for their countries? Surely they are amongst the top players in the world.
With the announcement of the International Crown, all that has changed. Every country will now have a chance to compete. The tournament will be played on even numbered years, while the Solheim cup will continue to be played on odd numbered years.
"The final field of eight countries will be determined by the combined Rolex World Ranking of the top four players from each country as of the Rolex World Rankings published at the conclusion of the 2013 CME Group Titleholders." (Countries must have a minimum of four ranked players to be eligible.)
"The final field of 32 players will be determined after the Rolex World Rankings are published on the Monday of the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship week. At this point, the top-4 ranked players from each pre-qualified country will make up their respective country’s team."
This makes it very interesting because at the completion of the 2013 LPGA season, we will know who the 8 countries that are competing are, but we will have to wait until well into the 2014 season to know who the players are that will represent their respective countries. In fact a player playing well in 2013 could help get their country in, but not make the team themself for playing poorly at the start of the 2014 season. Personally I think this is a stroke of genius on the commissioner's part. Not only will be watching carefully at the end of this year to make sure our country gets in, but we will be following closely the following year rooting for our favorite players to get in.
Now it's time to take a look at the standings as they are today. Which countries would qualify as of right now. Here is a listing of the top eight countries with their top players' Rolex Ranking in parenthesis:
1- Korea - N.Y. Choi (3), Inbee Park (4), Jiyai Shin (7), So Yeon Ryu (8) = 23
2- United States - Stacy Lewis (1), Cristie. Kerr (10), Paula Creamer (12), Brittany Lincicome (18) = 41
3- Japan - Ai Miyazato (6), Mika Miyazato (11), Chie Arimura (22), Rikako Morita (36) = 75
4- Australia - Karrie Webb (14), Katherine Hull-Kirk (63), Lindsay Wright (65), Stacey Keating (68) = 210
5- Spain - Azahara Munoz (16), Beatriz Recari (26), Carlota Ciganda (41), Belen Mozo (145) = 228
6- Sweden - Anna Nordqvist (30), Caroline Hedwall (39), Karin Sjodin (83), Maria Hjorth (97) = 249
7- Taiwan - Yani Tseng (2), Candie Kung (50), Teresa Lu (98), Hsuan-Yu Yao (182) = 332
8- Thailand - Ariya Jutanugarn (42), Pornanong Phatlum (52), Nontaya Srisawang (147), Moira Jutanugarn (176) = 417
Those are the countries that would be in as of today.
England would not be included, their team of Melissa Reid, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Karen Stupples, and Trish Johnson would be 9th. France is currently 10th, Italy 11th, and China 12th.
I think everyone might see this as a two team competition The U.S. and Korea. Think again! I sure don't want to have to play Spain. If Belen Mozo improves her ranking as expected, they will be fighting for the #3 spot.
There are other rules involving brackets, scoring, wild cards, etc., that we can get into as the tournament date approaches. But for now I think we all have something special to look forward to. I will keep everyone updated in future blogs.