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Lewis, Americans get top seed in new International Crown
Stacy Lewis hits her tee shot on the 9th hole during the final round of the LPGA Founders Cup golf tournament on Sunday, March 23, 2014, in Phoenix. Lewis finished tied for second place at 18-under par, one shot behind the winner, Karrie Webb. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
NEW YORK (AP) - The International Crown on the LPGA Tour has all the trappings of the best team event in golf until the Olympics in 2016. And considering there will be no team medal awarded in Rio, the LPGA event might be best team format in golf after the Olympics.
The Americans nudged South Korea as the top seed for the International Crown, which features eight teams of four players on July 24-27 at Caves Valley in Maryland. The combined world ranking of their four players — Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson and Cristie Kerr — added to 32. South Korea's ranking added to 33 with Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi and I.K. Kim.
Japan is the No. 3 seed with 131 points, illustrating a large gap after the top two countries. The other teams are Thailand, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan and Australia.
A new tournament, which required more planning than usual, means England and teen star Charley Hull will have to sit this one out.
The eight teams were locked in when the International Crown was announced in November. England's four best players amounted to No. 9. Over the last four months, Hull won her first pro tournament on the Ladies European Tour, and her ranking went from No. 119 to No. 67. Holly Clyburn moved up 23 spots to No. 98 with two good finishes. If the teams were determined Sunday — the cutoff for players — England would have been the No. 7 team and Australia would be out.
But there was reasons for teams to be locked in eight months in advance: sponsorship, promotion and television.
"If we waited until later, you can't knock on someone's door and say, 'How would you like to support the International Crown in three weeks?' " LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said Tuesday. "And we wanted to make sure we had quality television deals in the countries that are playing. ... We have good TV deals. But this event is more significant for a lot of countries than a regular tour event."
He plans to start announcing some of the sponsors this week at the LPGA's first major of the year.
As for players who qualify for the teams, Whan said he could see moving the deadline back as the International Crown gets more traction. For the first year, however, he thought it was important for players to have more than enough time to build their schedules around it. These aren't just LPGA players; eight of the 32 players who qualified for the International Crown are not LPGA members.
Three players from the top 10 in the world will not be at Caves Valley because their countries did not have enough highly ranked players: Suzann Pettersen (Norway), Lydia Ko (New Zealand) and Shanshan Feng (China).
Whan expects there to be some flaws, and he would be prepared to identify them after the first year.
"When you bring a brand new idea to the game, be prepared to be critiqued. And on the flip side, reach each one and don't be put off," he said. "'New' doesn't come easily."