OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — The inaugural International Crown is unique for what it isn’t.
Thirty-two elite players from eight countries will compete at Caves Valley Golf Club to determine which nation has the best women’s players in the world.
It’s not about individual play. None of the eight teams has a captain, and unlike the Solheim Cup, this isn’t just the United States versus Europe.
“For me, to be able to wear our Australian colors and play under the Australian flag is something that’s very special,” said Karrie Webb, who’s competing in her first professional team match-play event.
The United States is the top seed at the LPGA Tour-sanctioned tournament that begins Thursday.
“I think we would be bummed if we weren’t No. 1,” said American Paula Creamer, a 10-time tour winner.
Australia, South Korea, Japan, Sweden, Thailand, Spain and Taiwan also hope to raise the trophy after the final ball drops into the hole Sunday.
Creamer and teammates Stacy Lewis, Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson have all played for the Solheim Cup. Although the format of this event isn’t the same, the Americans will draw upon that experience.
“It’s got a little bit of a different feel, just having all the other countries and obviously a lot more players,” Lewis said. “But it’s cool. I think it’s really great. It’s something we needed for a long time.”
For the first three days, the teams will stay within their respective pools. Each country plays two best-ball matches against every other nation in its pool.
“Golf being such an individual sport, we don’t get to play as a team very often,” Thompson said. “Being part of a team, it’s just such an amazing feeling. Hearing `USA!’ chants going up every green, it’s the best experience.”
The U.S. will open against Taiwan, and South Korea will face Australia in Pool A on Thursday. In Pool B, Japan faces Sweden, and Thailand takes on Spain. The teams shuffle foes until Sunday, when the top four teams and a wild card meet in a total of 10 singles matches.
The country with the most points over the four days wins.
“It’s kind of a new experience for me because I can’t play in the Solheim Cup,” Japan’s Ai Miyazato said. “This is an amazing feeling, representing my country. Seeing my country flag everywhere on this golf course gives me goose bumps.”
Because there are no captains, each team determined its opening pairings by a meeting of the minds.
“We’re all very indecisive,” Webb acknowledged. “I mean, it took us about 20 minutes to decide where we were going to dinner the other night. So no one’s really making any assertive calls out there.”
The South Korean team ran business in similar fashion.
“It’s kind of sharing thoughts,” Inbee Park said. “I think it’s better because everybody takes a part.”
Park and her teammates are feeling the pressure to compete well, not only because South Korea wants to re-establish itself as a dominant force in women’s golf, but because it would be a boost to the country’s spirit.
“It’s a tough time back in my country right now. A lot of sad things happened this year, including the ferry disaster,” Park said. “A lot of people are in a really little bit of a depression, so we really need some kind of hope for my people back in my country, and I think this week could be a big hope for them.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)