The Korea Herald


S. Korean LPGA star thinks team 'can win again' at International Crown

By Yonhap

Published : May 4, 2023 - 10:13

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Members of the South Korean team competing at the International Crown in LPGA pose with their bags at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco on Wednesday. (LGPA) Members of the South Korean team competing at the International Crown in LPGA pose with their bags at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco on Wednesday. (LGPA)

The highest-ranked female golfer from South Korea believes the country "can win again" at this week's LPGA match play competition.

South Korea is the defending champion at the International Crown, whose fourth edition will tee off at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco on Thursday. At the pre-competition press conference on the eve of the event, Ko Jin-young, world No. 3 and one of four South Korean players in the field, said she likes her team's chances of repeating.

"Definitely, we can win again," Ko said.

The match play competition features eight countries, each represented by four players. Based on players' world ranking positions, South Korea grabbed the No. 2 seed behind the United States.

Ko mentioned the United States, Australia and China as other contenders. The US boasts three top-10 players, led by No. 1-ranked Nelly Korda. Lilia Vu, world No. 4, is the only two-time winner on the LPGA Tour this season and won the season's first major tournament, the Chevron Championship, on April 23.

Team China features rising stars Yin Ruoning, who won her maiden title last month in Los Angeles, and Lin Xiyu, runner-up at last week's tournament, also in LA.

The winner last week was Hannah Green of Australia. She is joined by two-time major champion Minjee Lee.

"All the players are in good condition right now," Ko said. "We will do our best, and we'll have a chance to win again."

Ko called TPC Harding Park "pristine," adding that fairways are narrow with trees all over the course. She said she will consciously try not to keep looking at trees lining fairways for fear of getting distracted.

But she offered a simple formula for success on the par-72 track.

"The course is really long, especially when it's rainy and windy like today," she said. "You have to keep warm, hit the fairways, hit the greens and make putts."

Ko will be playing with Kim Hyo-joo (world No. 9), Chun In-gee (No. 12) and Choi Hye-jin (No. 25). The four have combined for 23 LPGA wins, including six majors. Chun is the only one from the group with prior International Crown experience, having won the 2018 event and finished second in 2016.

Chun was the youngest member of the 2018 team. At 28, she is the oldest player on this year's squad.

"In 2018, I was just trying to follow what other players did. To be honest, that position was better than this year," Chun said with a smile. "Still, we have good relationships with everyone. I've known Hyo-joo and Jin-young for a long time. This is a good chance to get close to Hye-jin. I will just try to listen to what my teammates think and build good teamwork."

Chun recalled how much pressure she felt playing the 2018 International Crown, trying to deliver a win on home soil with the western city of Incheon hosting the event for the first time. But Chun also said she used that situation to her advantage, explaining, "Sometimes, when you have more pressure, you can focus better on the course."

As the only player with International Crown experience, Chun said she is prepared to share her lessons with her teammates.

"They're already great players. I don't need to give any advice to them," Chun said. "But if they need it, I am ready to share my experience from 2016 and 2018. I trust them."

Choi, the youngest member at 23, said she couldn't wait to make her International Crown debut.

"Since I am the youngest here, my teammates have been taking really good care of me," Choi said. "The vibe on the team has been awesome."

Kim will also be playing at her first International Crown at 27.

"Honestly, I don't set out to get into any specific competition," Kim said. "I've just been trying to play well at every tournament, and that's how I ended up here."

The eight teams have been split into two groups. South Korea is in Pool B with Japan, Thailand and Australia. Pool A teams are the United States, Sweden, England and China.

The first three days of the International Crown will feature four-ball competition, in which each player in a team plays her own ball and the better score of the two becomes that duo's score on the given hole.

The top two from each pool will advance to the semifinals Sunday. A match win is worth one point, and a tie is good for a half point.

The two semifinal matches will be played Sunday morning, with each consisting of two singles matches and one foursome match, in which each team plays one ball and players take turns hitting shots.

The championship final will be Sunday afternoon, along with a third-place match. They will both have the same format as the semifinals. (Yonhap)