Competition at the International Crown kicks off on Thursday at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Maryland. The venue of the first biennial event pitting eight countries in two brackets against each other may be a factor in determining who wears the crown on Sunday.
The top-seeded USA team, represented by Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson and Christie Kerr, may face a heated battle from upstart Spain in Pool A. USA garnered the top spot in the Rolex rankings, as of March 31.
However, Spain has proven to be on a roll throughout the course of the year, and their background at Caves Valley may give them just the edge they need to overcome the home team.
Former Arizona State standouts, Azahara Munoz and Carlota Ciganda, were on the NCAA championship team in 2009 played at Caves Valley. In addition, fellow Spaniard, Belen Mozo, competed in the same event for USC and finished third for the team title. Beatriz Recari, the fourth member of the Spanish team, has just regained some of the confidence in her game after turning the corner at the Ricoh British Open from previous injuries and swing changes. She’s also a three-time LPGA winner.
Lewis has been the standout player this year on the LPGA and tops the Rolex and CME Race to the Globe rankings. However, she cannot carry the load herself in four-ball competition. Her teammates have shown glimpses of brilliance this year interspersed with inconsistent play. Christie Kerr, one of the steadiest players of the LPGA, withdrew from the British Open due to injury.
Don’t be surprised if Spain comes out of Pool A with the most points.
Pool B will be another story. The Republic of Korea with Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi and I.K. Kim are head and shoulders above the competition in their pool, at least figuratively.
Seventh-seeded Australia with veteran, hall-of-famer Karrie Webb, No. 1 amateur in the world Minjee Lee, Katherine Kirk and Lindsey Wright appear to be the next best, but clearly behind the other three teams.
Look for these four teams and a wild card team, probably Sweden, to be playing singles matches against each other on Sunday to determine who wears the International Crown.