[Editor's note: Cristie Kerr, a member of Team USA in the inaugural LPGA International Crown, to be played Thursday-Sunday at Caves Valley Golf Club, has been blogging for The Baltimore Sun about her experience]
One of the most appealing aspects of the upcoming International Crown, as I wrote two weeks ago, is the way there are different layers of competition built into the event. First and foremost, your country had to qualify to play in the event. The final field of eight countries was determined by the combined Rolex World Ranking of the top four players from each country. This means that you cannot rely on just yourself to be playing well to get into the field, you need to have teammates — countrymates — who are also playing solid golf.
It's hard to say that there was a team in the International Crown field more difficult to make than our U.S. squad. This year alone, the LPGA Tour has seen 11 American champions in the first 17 tournaments.That includes our recently crowned U.S. Women's Open champion, Michelle Wie, who didn't even make the team. Neither did Jessica Korda, who has had a phenomenal breakout — year winning twice already. Rising star Lizette Salas, who took home the title at Kingsmill this year, one of my favorite tournaments of the year, didn't qualify. I think that says a lot about the level of competition within, and the state of, U.S. women's golf. When Mo Martin eagled the 72nd hole at last week's Ricoh Women's British Open, she continued an incredible streak of American winners who have gone 3-for-3 in major championships this year on the LPGA Tour. Last year, the first three majors of the year were won the Republic of Korea. Just so happens they were all by the same person — Inbee Park.
Park leads an incredibly strong Republic of Korea team, a country that has ruled the top of women's golf over the past few years. At the end the 2013 LPGA Tour season, the Republic of Korea accounted for eight of the top 18 players in the Rolex Official World Golf Rankings (ROWGR) and the United States had five. In the last seven months there has been a noticeable shift in the rankings. The United Sates, led by Stacy Lewis, who has surpassed Park to regain the No. 1 ranking in the world, has eight players in the top 18 with the Republic of Korea having just four players represented.
There has been a lot of concern over the state of U.S. golf over the past decade. Four Ryder Cup losses in five competitions. Two consecutive Solheim Cup losses. Since 2006, the only two Americans to reach No. 1 in the world rankigns have been myself and Stacy Lewis. The results on the LPGA Tour this year speak for themselves. U.S. golf is back and we have come back strong with great play and great personality. Both of which we hope to showcase this week against players from seven incredibly strong teams who want to win for their country as much as I do. As much as WE do.
What: Inaugural biennial women's team match-play competition pitting eight countries, each represented by a four-player team
Where: Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills (par 71, 3,405 yards)
When: July 24-27
Purse: $1.6 million