GURNEE, Ill. (AP) – The United States lost both of its four-ball matches to England, and Yani Tseng helped Taiwan sweep Australia on Thursday in the opening session of the UL International Crown.
Lexi Thompson and Cristie Kerr lost 2 and 1 to Holly Clyburn and Jodi Ewart Shadoff, and Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller fell to Charley Hull and Melissa Reid by the same score. Thompson, Kerr and Lewis also were on the American team that was swept on the first day of the inaugural event in 2014 and finished sixth.
Next up is two more days of four-ball matches at the sprawling Merit Club about 40 miles northwest of Chicago. The top two teams in each pool and the winner of wild-card playoff between the third-place teams will advance to the singles matches Sunday, with each player from the winning country taking home $100,000 apiece.
With the course set up for low scores, world No. 6 Ariya Jutanugarn made seven birdies while playing with Porani Chutichai for Thailand, but they only managed a halve against Japan’s Ai Suzuki and Ayaka Watanabe. Jutanugarn’s sister, Moriya, teamed with Pornanong Phatum for a 2-and-1 win over Haru Nomura and Mika Miyazato.
Top-seeded South Korea, with each of its four players ranked in the top 12, split its two matches against No. 8 China. Amy Yang and In Gee Chun won 1 up over Shanshan Feng and Xi Yu Lin, but Jing Yan and Simin Feng got two points for China with a 1-up victory over Sei Young Kim and So Yeon Ryu.
Tseng and Teresa Lu went off in the first match and cruised to a 3-and-2 victory over Karrie Webb and Su Oh. Tseng and Lu then watched as Candie Kung and Ssu-Chia Cheng posted a 2-up win over Rebecca Artis and Minjee Lee.
Taiwan also won its first two matches at Caves Valley Golf Club in Maryland in 2014, but didn’t score another point all weekend.
“We changed a little bit about the strategy about how we’re going to play this year because we both won on the first day, like four points, but we lose them on Friday and Saturday,” Tseng said. “We kind of changed it a little bit, the teammates and the strategy on the golf course. We tried to make as much birdies as we can instead of one play aggressive and one play more smart and safe.”
Thompson and Kerr never led in their match. Clyburn closed it out with a birdie on the par-4 17th.
“We played really well on the front, and on the back we didn’t play well enough to win,” Kerr said. “A couple more putts go in, a couple better shots. I left Lexi a couple times as a partner, and you can’t do that in four-ball if you want to win.”
China and England did not make the field for the inaugural event, which is determined by the cumulative rankings of the country’s top four players on a given date. They replaced champion Spain and runner-up Sweden.
“We were saying along the way, we’re all pretty big football fans, and obviously we had the Euros recently and we made more points in one day than England did in the whole tournament, so can I just point that out,” a smiling Reid said. “So we’re pretty proud of that, so we’re already on a winner.”