THURSDAY MATCH RECAPS
ENGLAND (ENG) VS. AUSTRALIA (AUS)
Charley Hull/Georgia Hall (ENG) halved with Minjee Lee/Sarah Jane Smith (AUS)The opening match of the 2018 UL International Crown was the very definition of a stirring comeback. Australia’s Minjee Lee and Sarah Jane Smith built a 3-up lead through 13 holes and looked on cruise control to an easy win. However, England’s Charley Hull and Georgia Hall came through like a freight train on the closing five holes. Hall eagled the driveable par-4 14th to kickstart the comeback and dropped in birdies at 17 and 18 to halve the match and eke out a point for England.
“We just had to go for everything and make sure we didn't leave a putt short,” said Hall of their team strategy over the closing holes.
For the Aussies, there was definite disappointment in earning the single point for the halve rather than the two points that go to the winners.
“I think we worked well as a team. In that respect I'm really happy with the day,” said Smith, who won all five holes for Australia. “But I think for both of us it feels like a loss. We played well enough to win the match and it was just the last couple holes that got away from us a bit.”
Bronte Law/Jodi Ewart Shadoff (ENG) d. Katherine Kirk/Su Oh (AUS), 4 and 3
The day’s largest margin of victory went to the English duo of Bronte Law and Jodi Ewart Shadoff, who never trailed in their 4-and-3 victory over Australia’s Katherine Kirk and Su Oh. After halving the first three holes, Law’s birdie at the par-4 fourth hole earned England a 1-up advantage. Law and Ewart Shadoff sailed in from there, only dropping two holes en route to the statement win.
“Jodi had some really good putts that were really important around the middle of the round and I had some good putts toward the end,” said Law, a ULIC rookie who earned her first two points for England. “I think we just kind of worked fairly well together as a team.”
Law and Ewart Shadoff played to the equivalent of 5-under through 15 holes, with the usual match-play concessions.
JAPAN (JPN) VS. THAILAND (THA)
Nasa Hataoka/Ayako Uehara (JPN) halved with Moriya Jutanugarn/Pornanong Phatlum (THA)UL International Crown rookies Nasa Hataoka and Ayako Uehara produced a superb birdie-birdie finish to eke out a half with Thai duo Moriya Jutanugarn and Pornanong Phatlum after a high-quality match in which both teams held the lead at various times but never by more than 1 up. The match was all square after 13 holes, then Phatlum hit a sizzling drive to 4 feet for an eagle at the par-4 14th to put the Thais 1 up, an advantage they maintained heading to the 17th. Both Phatlum and Hataoka hit tee shots close on that hole for matching birdies, but the long-hitting Hataoka also birdied the par-five 18th to earn Japan the half.
"I hadn't been hitting the ball very well in the middle of the round, but the last two holes I pulled it off and finished with two birdies," said Rolex Rankings No. 14 Hataoka."That's going to be good for rest of the week.”
Jutanugarn and Phatlum, resuming their successful partnership from the 2016 UL International Crown, produced golf of a high caliber before having to settle for a halved match. "Everybody played hard today and we really have to play a really good match," said Jutanugarn. "They're a super strong team. And myself, I made like five birdies and she had to win the hole with like eagle and that's become a really, really great match."
Ariya Jutanugarn/Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong (THA) def. Misuzu Narita/Mamiko Higa (JPN), 2 and 1
UL International Crown veteran Ariya Jutanugarn and rookie Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong earned the first victory of the week for their country after a tight match that was all square after 13 holes before the Thai duo sealed the win with birdies at the 14th and 16th. Jutanugarn, who had previously teamed up with a different partner each year at the Crown for a disappointing record of 1-3-2 in the four-ball encounters, felt that the match turned decisively at the par-four 14th where she drew inspiration when her teammate drove the green first. Jutanugarn followed suit and they both went on to birdie the hole, effectively shutting the door on their opponents.
"She (Santiwiwatthanaphong) hit driver on the green there (on 14) to like 20 feet," said Jutanugarn. "An amazing shot, an unbelievable shot. She made me feel so comfortable to try to go and hit the green too, and we both made birdie. We wanted to win the match, but like as soon as we saw the pairing, you know, Japan is tough for us. I didn't play that good, but I'm pretty lucky I got her (Santiwiwatthanaphong) as a partner. She helped me a lot today."
UNITED STATES (USA) VS. SWEDEN (SWE)
Cristie Kerr/Lexi Thompson (USA) d. Pernilla Lindberg/Madelene Sagstrom (SWE), 2 up
The most successful pairing in UL International Crown history notched their record fifth overall four-ball win in the United States’ first match as Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson defeated Pernilla Lindberg and Madelene Sagstrom, 2 up. Kerr and Thompson improved their record to 9-1-2 when paired together in UL International Crown and Solheim Cup competition.
The Americans never trailed in Match 5, grabbing their first lead with Thompson’s birdie on the second hole and pushing the margin to 2 up with a birdie from Kerr on the fourth. However, the Swedes would not allow the defending ULIC champions to get comfortable and returned the match to all square on No. 11. Kerr’s birdie on No. 13 allowed the U.S. to regain a lead that they ultimately wouldn’t relinquish.
“I think when one of us is out of a hole or in a bad position, the other one knows they have to step up,” said Kerr. “We've been able to do that. I think that's what makes a good team. Even if you don't have your best swing for the day or you haven't seen a putt go in, you figure out a way to get it done.”
Anna Nordqvist/Caroline Hedwall (SWE) d. Jessica Korda/Michelle Wie (USA), 2 up
Match 6 was a roller-coaster ride that took all 18 holes as Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall gave Sweden their first two points with a 2-up win over Jessica Korda and Michelle Wie. The duo of Nordqvist and Hedwall remain unbeaten as a team in the UL International Crown with a record of 3-0-1 after also playing their four-ball matches together in 2014.
The match began with the Swedes building a 4-up lead through the first five holes. The United States’ rookie tandem was not fazed, chipping away at the Swedish lead and evening the match with a massive birdie putt from Wie on No. 13. Nordqvist answered at the 14th with a birdie of her own, one of her five on the day, and wrapped up the win with a finishing birdie on the par-5 18th.
“It was quite up-and-down,” said Nordqvist. “We got off to a great start, I struggled on quite a few holes on the back and Caroline played great on those. So we kind of were a little bit up-and-down, but made a great par on 17 and then won on 18, which I think we both were very happy with.”
REPUBLIC OF KOREA (KOR) VS. CHINESE TAIPEI (TPE)
Sung Hyun Park/In-Kyung Kim (KOR) def. Candie Kung/Phoebe Yao (TPE), 1 up
Crowd favorite Sung Hyun Park, partnered with In-Kyung Kim, absolutely electrified the partisan crowds by driving the green for an eagle-2 at No. 14, the highlight of a 1-up victory over Candie Kung and Phoebe Yao of Chinese Taipei. The first nine holes were a back-and-forth battle, with both countries holding leads. After making the turn all square, Park’s birdie on the par-4 10th pushed them to a 1-up advantage. And that eagle that sent cheers reverberating around Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea ultimately sealed the victory for Korea.
“When I was doing the practice round, I thought that No. 14 was a drivable hole, so I knew that I really wanted to try to get it to the green on one go,” said Park, who had 7 meters left for her eagle. “In fact, the winds were really favorable as well and on my tee shot, I was really confident with that shot.”
In Gee Chun/So Yeon Ryu (KOR) def. Teresa Lu/Wei-Ling Hsu (TPE), 2 up
The second match between Korea and Chinese Taipei saw In Gee Chun/So Yeon Ryu and Teresa Lu/Wei-Ling Hsu all square through 10 holes. However, a Chun birdie on the par-4 11th kickstarted the pair’s dash for victory. Hsu again squared the match with a birdie at the par-4 14th, but both Korean players birdied the ensuing par-5 15th, and a closing birdie from Ryu locked in the 2-up win.
“I’m glad that I looked like I was enjoying myself because I was actually very nervous,” said Chun of her nerves on the first tee in front of the throngs of Korean fans. “So Yeon tried to help me relax, but I think going to the first hole I was able to laugh a little bit. Having birdied the first hole, I think that really boosted me afterward. But I think I was really nervous and what I tried to do was I tried to turn that tension into something positive for our team.