Whether it’s the Solheim Cup or the Ryder Cup, it seems like every year a couple players come out of the woodworks to dominate the match-play competitions. Here’s five players to watch out for this week at the International Crown.
Sakura Yokomine, Japan – Yokomine isn’t as well known as some of her playing partners because she’s largely spent her time on the JLPGA but she’s proven she can play on a global scale. At Pinehurst a month ago for the U.S. Women’s Open, Yokomine finished in a tie for 7th. She comes in playing well, too, with a runner-up on the JLPGA in her last start, and she won twice on the JLPGA in 2013. She’s got the highest Rolex Ranking on the Japanese team (38) and is one to watch this week.
Carlota Ciganda, Spain – Ciganda hasn’t had the year she was hoping for on the LPGA with a tie for 15th as her best finish, but she has a ton of recent match play experience. She won the 2007 British Amateur, which has a match-play format, and she played on the European team twice at the Junior Solheim Cup and Junior Ryder Cup. If the 2013 Solheim Cup is any indication, she could have a huge week at the International Crown after going 3-0-0 there, including 2-0-0 in four-ball – the format for the first three rounds this week. This was a tough call choosing her for the Spanish team over her teammate Azahara Munoz, who is 3rd on the LPGA Tour this season with 227 birdies to her credit, but Munoz comes into this event with the biggest billing. Ciganda doesn’t, and if Spain’s holding the trophy at the end of the weekend, she’ll surely be a big reason why.
Yani Tseng, Chinese Taipei – Sure, Tseng hasn’t maintained the 2010 and 2011 form that had her looking like potentially the greatest player of all time at some point, but she’s proven before she can do it on a global stage and this is the perfect proving ground for her reemergence. There’s been signs this year that maybe the game is coming back around like a tie for 2nd at the Kingsmill Championship and a tie for 5th early in the season at the Honda LPGA Thailand. But this pick is more about how the golf course fits her game. Caves Valley is long – 6,628 yards to be exact – and the fairways are soft and wide. Long hitters are going to have a huge advantage here, trying to hit the small greens with their approaches. Even more so considering the format, which rewards birdies and doesn’t allow big mistakes to kill you because you have a partner to lean on. Tseng’s 4th on the tour in driving distance – 266.4 yards – and has the game that fits this golf course.
Minjee Lee, Australia – The No. 1 amateur in the world has played like anything but an amateur in professional events this year. She already has four top-10s in 10 professional starts this season and finished in the top-25 at two of the season’s first three majors and was even in contention on Saturday at the U.S. Women’s Open. At 18 years old, Lee has already had a ton of success in match play, winning the 2012 U.S. Junior Girls Championship and the 2013 Australia Women’s Amateur. She’s been described as fearless by her teammates and that’s just what you want in match play.
Caroline Hedwall, Sweden – Hedwall doesn’t come into this event with the fanfare of her Swedish teammate Anna Nordqvist, but she might be the most dangerous member of this team in this format. Hedwall’s been on back-to-back European winning Solheim Cup teams and might have been the best player on the team in each of those years. She’s 7-1-1 in the Solheim Cup and a stout 3-1-1 in four-ball matches. She’s the only player in Solheim Cup history to go 5-0-0 in one event. Although she doesn’t have a breakthrough title to her credit on the LPGA Tour, she has a number of big titles to her credit – NCAA Championship and two European Ladies Amateur Championships – and this golf course fits her game like a glove. She’s 12th on the LPGA Tour in driving distance – 261 yards – and could rack up some birdies in four-ball matches. Her match-play duo with Nordqvist just may be the toughest in the field in this format.
Topics: International Crown