So many story lines have been created leading into the 2014 LPGA Tour season and one of the biggest will be the battle among players to earn a spot on their respective International Crown teams. The inaugural event won’t be played until July of this year, but the hype for the first-of-its-kind global team event will be high through the first six events on the LPGA Tour schedule.
The eight countries that will compete at Caves Valley Golf Club outside of Baltimore were set at the CME Group Titleholders back in November. But players now have to secure their spots on the team based on their Rolex Rankings. They’ll have through the Kia Classic to move up the rankings and several of the races will come down to the wire. Here are four teams who are tight in competition and to keep an eye on through the first six events.
The overwhelming favorite may have one of the biggest dilemmas on their hands before they even tee it up as Team Korea. Who will be left off the team? There were eight South Koreans ranked in the top-20 in the latest Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, seven of them with LPGA Tour victories to their names. Each and every one is capable of making dramatic jumps in the rankings. Ha Na Jang and Amy Yang are currently on the outside looking in and are separated by only one spot and Nos. 14 and 15 respectively.
|So Yeon Ryu||5|
|Na Yeon Choi||7|
|Ha Na Jang||14|
The Americans will be as motivated as ever to perform on an international stage after a crushing loss at the Solheim Cup last summer in Colorado. There will be plenty of spark and intensity on Team USA, whoever ends up making the team. With Lexi Thompson currently in the second spot behind Stacy Lewis and Lizette Salas in the sixth spot, the United States squad could have a nice combination of veterans and youthful talent. Only three points separate Angela Stanford and Lizette Salas who are in positions No. 5 and 6 and are right on the tail of nine-time LPGA Tour winner Paula Creamer.
Another tight race will be among the Japanese contingent which has its top-six players within 27 spots in the rankings on one another. The Miyazatos will be the headliners of Team Japan but the lesser known teammates are deep in talent despite not being household names just yet. Miki Saiki, a two-time winner on the JLPGA last season, is currently in the fifth spot and trails Rikako Morita (2013 JLPGA leading money winner) by just six slots in the rankings. Shiho Oyama, who finished tied for fifth at last year’s Mizuno Classic is currently ranked No. 48 and could give the rest of the Japanese players a run for their money.
The Thai team could be a dangerous dark horse come July and will play off their chemistry to make a run to shock the world in Baltimore. The current top-4 players are all under 25 years old and are close friends off the course. The Jutanugarn sister duo will provide an interesting story line and the two are always most comfortable when they’re together. Add in sixth-year LPGA Tour member Pornanong Phatlum who finished the 2013 season with two top-5 finishes and Thidapa Suwannapura to the mix and the squad from Thailand might give their fans back at home plenty to cheer about.
Topics: International Crown