OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — The top-seeded United States left the inaugural International Crown without a trophy and with no shortage of reasons for its surprisingly early exit.
Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu both birdied the first playoff hole Saturday as South Korea eliminated the Americans and earned a wild-card berth in the final round of the star-crossed event.
The Koreans will join Spain, Thailand, Japan and Sweden on Sunday in a duel for title.
And the United States? Well, none of the four players expressed any desire to stick around to see who wins it all.
“Who would we root for if not ourselves?” Christie Kerr said.
“I think we’re still kind of just realizing we’re not playing,” teammate Paula Creamer said.
In the wake of their stunning defeat, the Americans questioned the format of a tournament, lamented their poor start Thursday and agonized over a shot on the extra hole that went from near-perfect to disastrous.
“Just have to take this as a learning experience,” Kerr said.
After Kerr and Lexi Thompson beat sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn 3 and 2, Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum and Onnarin Sattayabanphot edged the team of Paula Creamer and Stacy Lewis 1-up to leave the U.S. in third place in Pool A.
South Korea, the third-place finisher in Pool B, called upon Park and Ryu to face Kerr and Thompson in a wild-card playoff on the par-5 16th hole.
Thompson’s second shot hit the fringe of the green, sat for an instant and then rolled back down a hill. She attempted an uphill putt, which barely made it to the top of the hill.
Thompson subsequently missed a 10-footer, and the other three players made birdies. According to the unique wild-card format, that eliminated the U.S.
If Thompson’s approach stuck on the fringe, the U.S. probably would have been celebrating. Instead …
“We’re not going to let her think about that,” Lewis said.
“She hit two great golf shots there and did exactly as she was supposed to do,” Lewis added.
Spain won Pool A with seven points, earning the tiebreaker over Thailand, which also had seven points. The U.S. had six points and Taiwan finished with four.
Japan split with South Korea on Saturday to emerge atop Pool B with eight points, and Sweden swept Australia to finish with seven points. South Korea had six points and the Aussies had three.
“It’s just crazy to think that we’re two points out of the lead and we’re not able to play (Sunday),” Lewis said. “That’s the most disappointing part about the format.”
Points accumulated over the first three days carry over to Sunday’s final round, when each country plays one singles match against every other country. The team with the most points wins the Crown.
The U.S. won’t be playing in part because it lost both its matches to Taiwan on Thursday. Those turned out to be Taiwan’s only wins of the tournament.
“It ended up being the thing that kind of bit us in the butt,” Kerr said. “It wasn’t yesterday or today. We all played our hearts out.”
As did the team from South Korea.
“Normally if I lose a playoff, everything is just for me and I can handle everything,” Ryu said. “But this time I have to think about Inbee, I.K. and Na Yeon and all Korean fans and all Korean people,”
Spain eliminated Taiwan with a pair of contrasting victories. Carlota Ciganda sank a 5-foot birdie putt on No. 13 to seal a 6-and-5 win with teammate Azahara Munoz. The duo beat Yani Tseng and Phoebe Yao, who lost five of the first six holes and could not recover.
In the other match, Spain’s Belen Mozo and Beatriz Recari lost the first two holes and were 2 down after 11 holes before rallying for a 1-up win over Candie Kung and Teresa Lu.
It was a feel-good afternoon for the Spaniards, who lost twice Friday to the U.S. team.
“We learned from it,” Munoz said. “We talked about it this morning and we said that from the beginning, no matter what, we’re going to keep our heads up and just give it our best.”
The Japanese team of Ai Miyazato and Sakura Yokomine beat Na Yeon Choi 3 and 2, and Park and Ryu bested Mamiko Higa and Mika Miyazato 4 and 3.
Yokomine made two eagles on the back nine to provide Japan with the win.
Sweden sent Australia packing with a lopsided sweep. Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist cruised past Minjee Lee and Karrie Webb 4 and 3, and Pernilla Lindberg and Makaela Parmlid beat Katherine Kirk and Lindsey Wright 7 and 5.
Australia won only one match over three days, fewest of any country.
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