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 we 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- South Korea - 16 - Inbee Park (1), Na Yeon Choi (4), I.K. Kim (5), So Yeon Ryu (6)
2- United States - 40 - Stacy Lewis (3), Paula Creamer (11), Cristie Kerr (12), Lizette Salas (14)
3- Japan - 109 - Ai Miyazato (15), Mika Miyazato (20), Rikako Morita (36), Miki Saiki, (38)
4- Spain - 251 - Beatriz Recari (18), Azahara Munoz (32), Carlotta Ciganda (35), Belen Mozo (166)
5- Sweden - 279 - Anna Nordqvist (24), Caroline Hedwall (25), Pernilla Lindberg (107), Karin Sjodin (123)
6- Australia - 291 - Karrie Webb (7), Stacey Keating (94), Lindsey Wright (100), Katherine Hull Kirk (90)
7- Thailand - 325 - Ariya Jutanugarn (23), Pornanong Phatlum (58), Moriya Jutanugarn (101), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (143)
8- Chinese Taipei - Yani Tseng (19), Candie Kung (78), Theresa Lu (82), Hsuan-Yu Yau (161)
Those are the countries who would be in as of today. The following countries would fail to qualify:
9- England - 448 - Jodi Ewart-Shadoff (42), Charley Hull (136), Holly Clyburn (120), Trish Johnson (150)
10- France - 538 - Karine Icher (22), Gwladys Nocera (112), Joanna Klatten (185), Anne-Lise Caudal (219)
Unfortunately even this is not a perfect system, as players such as Suzann Pettersen (Norway), Shanshan Feng (Mainland China), Catriona Matthew (Scotland), Sandra Gal & Caroline Masson (Germany), Lee-Anne Pace (South Africa), and Lydia Ko (New Zealand), would not get a chance to play because their respective countries do not have 4 Rolex ranked players. That aside I think this tournament gives us all something to look forward to in 2014.
In a surprising announcement, the LPGA will be starting their 2014 schedule in January this year, and on east coast time. The second annual Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic has been moved up from last year's May spot, to January 20-26. Look for more exciting announcements regarding the 2014 schedule, including additional domestic event(s) in the next couple of months.
Follow @tonyjesselli Tweet