U.S. shut out by England in opening day of International Crown

Writing from Gurnee, Illinois

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hammered again.


Shut out.


Get the idea?

The two United States duos in the 2nd International Crown at the Merit Club were beaten on Thursday by England. Americans Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson never led against Holly Clyburn and Jodi Ewart Shadoff, who teamed for a 2 and 1 victory. Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller had a 2 up lead on England’s Charley Hull and Mel Reid after six holes, but couldn’t stop Hull and Reid from a birdie-eagle-birdie binge on the next three holes. The Brits were thus 1 up at the turn, and, never trailing thereafter, went on to a 2 and 1 triumph.

If this sounds familiar, it is. Two years ago, when the Crown debuted at Caves Valley Golf Club in Maryland, the Americans were also shut out on the opening day, a deficit they couldn’t come back from in the following two days. The Yanks ended up on the sidelines on Sunday, when the Crown was on the line.

The outcome earned England four points, while Thailand has three and Japan one in the  group with the pointless U.S.

“I felt like we played good golf today, so there’s – that’s what this format is,” Lewis said. “You play good golf and you’re going to lose matches, and that’s the way it goes.”

Golf lacking a defensive component, Lewis is right. She and Piller combined for a 6-under best-ball reading in their 17 holes, but Hull and Reid were 9-under, including an eagle each. Hull was 8-under herself, finishing eagle-birdie to close out the match.

“It was just a great day,” Hull said.

The barrage under par starting at the seventh was the stuff golf dreams are made of. Hull dropped a short into to within 10 feet on the 179-yard seventh and sank it. Reid smashed her 6-iron second shot within 15 feet on the par-5 eighth and sank it for an eagle. Hull returned the favor with a 3-iron to eight feet on the ninth for a birdie 2.

“Charley made everything she looked at,” Piller said.

It was there for the taking for the English duo. Piller made only two birdies, Lewis five.

“It’s always nice to beat you guys,” Reid said with a grin to an American reporter.

Clyburn and Ewart Shadoff got off to a quicker start than their compatriots, a birdie by Clyburn on the par-3 second moving them ahead of Kerr and Thompson. By the end, the visitors were 8-under across 17 holes to the 6-under of the hosts.

“On the back we didn’t play well enough to win,” Kerr said. “I left Lexi a couple times as a partner, and you can’t do that in four-ball if you want to win.”

Thailand appeared to be on the way to a similar sweep of Japan, but Ayaka Watanabe’s birdie at the last ensured a halve for her and Ai Suzuki against Thai duo Ariya Jutanugarn, the sixth-ranked player in the world, and Porani Chutichai. Jutanugarn scored seven birdies, but she and Chutichai never led until the 15th hole – when Jutanugarn authored birdie No. 6 – and lost that advantage when Watanabe poured in her 8-footer on the 18th.

In the other group, Taiwan, a.k.a. the Republic of China to diplomats and Chinese Taipei to the International Olympic Committee, swept Australia, even as they posted four points against the U.S. two years ago. Now, unlike 2014, the quartet wants to keep it going.

“We tried to make as much birdies as we can instead of one play aggressive and one play smart and safe,” former world No. 1 Yani Tseng said. “Me and Teresa (Lu) today, we’d go for every shot almost.”

That brought them a 2-up lead on Karrie Webb and Su Oh after five holes, and while the Australians brought the match square via birdies on the 11th and 12th holes, Lu birdied three of the next four holes and Tseng birdied the one Lu didn’t to run off with a 3 and 2 victory. 

The sweep was completed by Candie Kung – runner-up in the Women’s Western Amateur at Exmoor in 2000 – and Ssu-Chia Cheng’s 2-up victory over Minjee Lee and Rebecca Artis.

South Korea and the People’s Republic of China split, with Korea’s In Gee Chun and Amy Yang beating China’s Shanshan Feng and Xi Yu Lin 2 up, and China’s Simin Feng and Jing Yan scoring a 1 up win over Sei Young Kim and So Yeon Ryu.

“I was nervous on the first tee,” Shanshan Feng said. “I wasn’t shaking, but I could feel like I wasn’t concentrating as normal.”

It was like that for many players. For the Americans, desperate to get back into contention, it may be even more so on Friday morning, when the U.S. plays Thailand. England meets Japan in the other Group B match, while South Korea and Taiwan face off in Group A, and Australia meets China.

Around Merit Club

The quote of the day came from England’s Mel Reid, who couldn’t help note her team’s success compared to the woeful English squad in the Euro 2016 soccer tournament: “We were saying along the way, we’re all pretty big football fans, and we made more points in one day than England did in the whole tournament. Can I just point that out? We’re pretty proud of that, so we’re already on a winner.” ... Galleries weren’t huge, but the estimated 2,500 or so on hand were into it, with a few flags and painted faces in evidence. With tee times running from 8 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, large crowds aren’t expected until the weekend. ... The 2018 Crown in South Korea was awarded to the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, the site of the 2015 Presidents Cup. ... This year’s Crown is the first of three straight years a significant LPGA tournament is in the Chicago area. Next year, the WPGA Championship is at Olympia Fields, and the 2018 edition will be played at Kemper Lakes in Hawthorn Woods. When the 2000 U.S. Women’s Open was held at Merit Club, the address was Libertyville. Since then, with luxury homes sprouting up around the perimeter of the course, the course and those homes have been annexed by the village of Gurnee, most of which is located to the northeast of the facility.

Tim Cronin

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