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USA exit, Japan leading after dramatic day
July 26, 2014

It was no surprise that more drama unfolded on the final day of pool play at the International Crown on Saturday. But it was a shock to see the two top seeded teams from each pool forced into the wildcard playoff to decide the final spot for Sunday’s singles matches. It was even more surprising to see the No. 1 overall seed and host United States to not make it to the final day.

Japan leads all teams with 8 points and will be the No. 1 seed for Sunday’s singles matches. Three teams sit tied with 7 total points apiece (Spain, Thailand, Sweden). Spain earns the No. 2 seed for Sunday, having beat Thailand in their head-to-head matchups on Saturday. Thailand takes the No. 3 seed having been the higher seed than Sweden entering the tournament. Sweden will be No. 4 and The Republic of Korea take the fifth seed after beating the United Stated in the wildcard playoff.

The United States and The Republic of Korea found themselves in the third seed of their respective pools after the conclusion of pool play and faced off on the 16th tee for the sudden death-playoff. Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr, Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu stepped forward as representatives of their respective teams.

“Honestly, it's always hard to beat the Americans, especially in the United States,” said Ryu. “A lot of American fans are in here. Lexi is a long hitter and I thought that she easily can make it in two on the par-5. So obviously I was pretty scared before I was going into the playoff.”

Park and Ryu both made birdies to defeat Team USA after Kerr birdied and Thompson made par.

“It is disappointing,” said Kerr. “Especially to go in a playoff and have it come down to one hole and total score. So it's just disappointing, but we got to take the positives away from our play the last couple days and hold our head high.”

The format for Sunday will be singles match play with a total of ten matches played on Sunday. Each country will play one singles match against every other country. The team with the most points over all four days of play will win the International Crown.

No more hosting duties: The Americans headed into this week not even having the thought of missing out on Sunday’s singles matches, but after being forced in the wildcard playoff and losing to The Republic of Korea, that horror became their reality.

“Honestly, the first time I thought about that was on our cart ride up into the media center,” said Lewis. “I never thought that we wouldn't be playing tomorrow. It never really even crossed my mind until we were driving up here. I don't know.”

Lewis and Paula Creamer needed to halve or win their match on Saturday with Pornanong Phatlum and Onnarin Sattayabanphot to clinch a spot for Sunday’s final round. Thompson and Kerr beat the Jutanugarn sisters 3&2 to give the U.S. six total points.

The final match of the day went all the way to the 18th hole, only one of two matches to do so on Saturday, and Creamer and Lewis failed to convert on their long birdie putts. After all four players made par, the U.S. was forced into the wildcard playoff which they eventually lost.

Although they won’t be competing on Sunday, the entire group agreed that the competition elevated women’s golf as a whole.

“I think the International Crown generated a lot of interest by the media, a lot of interest by the fans, and I thought it was very good for our Tour,” said Kerr. “It was a different, fresh kind of an idea and concept. I think our Tour needs this kind of an event where we can include a lot of different countries, because we are such a global Tour. I'm going to walk away saying I thought this event was pretty cool.”

Weather forecast moves up start times: With bad weather forecasted for Sunday afternoon, the tee times for the final day of the International Crown have been moved up. The first singles match will now tee off at 11:30 a.m. ET with the final pairing teeing off at 1:00 p.m.

Due to the change in schedule, the final matches of the International Crown will be available to watch from 1-2:30 p.m. ET on and live TV coverage will take place from 2:30-5 p.m. ET on Golf Channel.

Japan on top heading into final day: With a 3&2 victory by Ai Miyazato and Sakura Yokomine Team Japan earned its seventh and eighth points of the competition to move into first place heading into the final day of the International Crown.

“It was huge two points I think that we took today,” Miyazato said. “Wow, it was just a really tough day out there. Na Yeon and I.K. played really solid and I thought we were going to play 18, another 18 holes today or something. That match was really tough.”

Undefeated heading into the final day of fourball, the Japanese squad dropped it first match of the competition when Mamiko Higa and Mika Miyazato fell to Korea’s Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu putting extra pressure on Ai Miyazato and Yokomine who delivered in the clutch with the victory over Na Yeon Choi and I.K. Kim.

The Japanese duo trailed by one at the turn but quickly turned the match around on the home half by winning four of the first five holes to go three up. The charge was led by Yokomine who holed out for eagle on 10 and then went birdie, chip-in eagle, birdie, birdie on the first five holes of the back nine. From there, the Japanese pair halved the next two holes with pars to take the 3&2 victory.

“It's been just amazing,” Ai Miyazato said. “It's an amazing feeling. We're having this super great experience so far. It doesn't matter how we're going to play or not, it's just a great atmosphere and we have seen good crowds on the golf course. It's an amazing feeling playing for my country.”

The four Japanese golfers are confident heading into the singles competition but are still appreciative of the opportunity to represent their country.

“I know it's going to be a big day tomorrow, but still, I'm just really happy that I'm part of this team and I'm playing for my country this week,” Ai Miyazato said. “I just really appreciate that we could have this opportunity.”

Team of the Day - Pool B: Sweden went into the final day of fourball action needing a big day as they were tied for last in Group B and the pairings of Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall and Pernilla Lindberg and Mikaela Parmlid delivered earning four points and easily getting into the singles round.

“Both of us played really well,” said Nordqvist. “It's been a long time since I enjoyed myself this much on a golf course. But we were playing really well and I'm just very happy and proud of my team today.”

Lindberg and Parmlid got the Swedish team on the board first with a dominating 7&5 victory over Australia’s Katherine Kirk and Lindsey Wright, the largest margin of victory in the International Crown thus far. The duo won the first three holes with birdies and never looked back on their way to the victory.

“It was just so nice to put some points on the board, because obviously we hadn't our first two days,” Lindberg said. “It really felt like we deserved it after our good golf yesterday. So just, yeah, we were so determined to go out there today and just get those two points, because we knew we were playing great golf.”

Nordqvist and Hedwall also put in an impressive showing over the Aussies winning 5&3 over Karrie Webb and Minjee Lee. The duo made three consecutive birdies from holes 6-8 to break open a tight contest and cruised the rest of the way.

“Well, obviously, today it really helped because we knew we needed the two matches. It just made us happy,” Hedwall said.

Spain in the clutch: It doesn’t get much more clutch than what Belen Mozo did Saturday. Needing a full two points to ensure entry into Sunday’s final round after Azahara Munoz and Carlota Ciganda won 6 & 5, Mozo and Recari entered the final three holes all square with Candie Kung and Teresa Lu.

“Well, I think if you know me, you know that I live for these moments,” Mozo said. “I just get very excited and I love it. I just embrace those moments, because I don't know, I have so much passion that I enjoy it.”

And she proved the talk wasn’t hype. Despite being the lowest ranked member of Team Spain, she shined the brightest when it mattered most, chipping in for eagle on the par-5 16th to take the hole after Teresa Lu had made birdie.

“I just didn't think about my technique. I just saw the ball flying, took a big breath and went with it,” Mozo said. “It was a pretty nice shot.”

Added Recari: “That was just an incredible boost. We were like, you know, so motivated and two holes to go and we finished it, and it was fantastic out there.”

They were able to finish it again because of Mozo. It wasn’t for a lack of effort from Chinese Taipei, either, as Teresa Lu poured in another birdie on 18, but Mozo holed a 10-foot birdie putt to match and guarantee Spain the win and the entry into Sunday’s finale. Mozo’s birdie falling was particularly crushing for Lu, who had just completed a phenomenal day with seven birdies and an eagle on the day, but it wasn’t enough because of Mozo. On the back nine alone, Mozo made four birdies and an eagle, but no birdie was bigger than the one on 18.

“I just wanted to do it,” Mozo said. “The chances of going in were maybe not so high, but I don't know, you know, you can always believe and dream. So I dreamed about it and it went in.”

The sweep came a day after Spain was swept by the Americans, but all along, the Spaniards knew it would take an upset to beat them. That’s the confidence they came in with and that’s the confidence they took into Saturday’s matches.

It would be a huge upset if we weren't up here,” Recari said. “Even though we're competing against the other seven best countries in the world, we unconsciously, I don't know if the word is 'expect,' but if you were in there, I'm going to repeat what Azahara said, we would be like, what? What happened if we weren't in there. It would be a great upset for us.”

Shot and Putt of the Day: With her team in the playoff vying for the final spot in the singles finale of the International Crown, Inbee Park’s drive split the fairway but fell well behind her fellow competitors on the par-5 16th hole. The former Rolex Rankings No. 1 didn’t let the lack of distance bother her as she laid up to 70 yards and stuck her approach to five feet.

“It was the most nervous moment that I had in my life yet,” said the four-time major champion and 10-time LPGA tour winner.

With her playing partner I.K. Kim and USA’s Crisite Kerr in tight with birdie looks and Lexi Thompson in with a par, Park’s four foot breaker proved to be the difference maker as she buried the left to right breaker allowing Kim to clean up her tap in for the victory.

Player of the day: As Pornanong Phatlum left the 18th green with a 1-up victory over No. 1 Stacy Lewis and Paula Creamer, one that ensured her native Thailand would advance to the final round Sunday, she had to look back over what might have been the greatest golfing day of her life.

Phatlum, the No. 28 player in the world, went to work early, recording birdies on the two opening holes to take a 1-up lead on the Americans. She recorded one more on the front nine and then really decided to take it to the Americans with birdies on the first three holes on the back nine. Back-to-back birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 pushed the Thailand lead to 2-up with three to play. Phatlum couldn’t muster anymore birdies over the final three, but her eight birdie Saturday proved enough as the Americans cut the lead to 1-up with a birdie on the par-5 16th but weren’t able to make a birdie on 17 or 18, ensuring Thailand would advance to the finale.

“Such a big win today. It was a really close match,” said Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Phatlum’s partner. “They also played really well today and Pornanong played amazing today on the back nine.”

Both Sattayabanphot and Phatlum ignored the growing crowd of Americans surrounding their matches. Sattayabanphot admitted to being a bit intimidated by the Spaniards in round one, but Saturday they stayed within themselves and focused only on their game. It worked and now Thailand – many prognosticator’s guess as the winner – heads into Sunday’s single matches with four other countries with a host of momentum.

“I tried to ignore all the crowd and all the loud noise from the gallery and then just try to play my game and try to support my partner,” Sattayabanphot said. “We kind of talked more on how we're going to play each shot or how we're going to play the puts and stuff. I think that went well.”

If Sattayabanphot’s partner plays Sunday like she did against the Americans, Thailand can go ahead and chalk up one singles point on Sunday.


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