Thailand ran the table at the Hanwha LifePlus International Crown, defeating Australia in the final of the team event on Sunday afternoon at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
The team of Atthaya Thitikul, Patty Tavatanakit and sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn went 6-0-0 in the round-robin stage over the first three days. They lost just one individual match all week — one of the singles matches against the United States in the semifinal round Sunday morning — but that was just a brief blip on the way to winning the nation’s first international crown.
“First of all, it’s such an honor to represent our country,” said Moriya Jutanugarn, whose sister, Ariya, received the first most valuable player award. “Obviously, we had a really good team this week. Everybody just gives 100 percent every game. A lot of the good players are out here. We’re just trying to hang in there and just keep going and try to play as solid as we can.”
The U.S. rebounded from its semifinal loss to Thailand to defeat Sweden in the consolation game and take third place.
The International Crown was played for the first time since 2018 due to the covid-19 pandemic. The top eight countries in women’s golf were determined by last year’s Rolex Rankings and each country sent four of their best players to the unique team event.
Countries were seeded and divided into two pools, with teams competing in four balls (best ball) in a single round-robin format from Thursday to Saturday. The top two countries from each pool advanced to Sunday.
Two semi-final matches were played on Sunday morning, each consisting of two singles matches and one foursomes (alternate-shot) match. Thailand took two out of three matches against the USA, while Australia swept Sweden to set up the final on Sunday afternoon in the same format.
Thitikul defeated Lexi Thompson 3 and 2 to open their semifinal showdown, but Lilia Vu got the Americans on the board by beating Tavatanakit 1 up. Vu trailed 1 after 12 holes but won the 13th and 14th with pars — while Tavatanakit bogeyed each — to take the lead for good.
But in the alternate-shot match, the Jutanugarn sisters birdied the par-5 third and fifth holes for a 2-up lead on Nelly Korda and Danielle Kang for an early lead. Korda and Kang rallied through 16 holes, but Jutanugarns birdied the par-3 17th to take the lead for good.
The finals were not as close. Thitikul defeated Australia’s Stephanie Kyriacou 4 and 2, winning four of the last five holes, while Tavatanakit eased to a 4-and-3 victory over Hannah Green. Jutanugarns lost her first two holes to Minjee Lee and Sarah Kemp, but bounced back to win Nos. 3, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10 – all with birdies – to turn the match en route to a 4th -and- 3 win.
Ariya Jutanugarn said the Thai players were feeling a little anxious on Saturday night about the final day of the tournament.
“We kind of talked it through and then everybody just said, ‘You know what, do our best, and let’s go with no expectations and we know the results are going to be great,’” she said.
In the consolation match, Madelene Sagström got the Swedes on the board with a quick 5-and-4 victory over Vu. Thompson equalized by beating Maja Stark 3 and 2, and Kang and Korda clinched a close 1-up win over Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall.
Kang and Korda won just two holes and never led by more than one.
“Having team events like this, I think, gives us a wider fan base,” Thompson said. “I think the fans are really enjoying it, and I think there’s a lot more energy out here and people cheering and stuff. We have big crowds today. I think it’s important for women’s golf in general to have these events as well. “
–Field Level Media