Sunday, December 9, 2007

Lexus Cup: Team Asia Rules

So the Lexus Cup results are in: a huge 15-9 victory for Team Asia over Team International. Here's the breakdown by day:

Round One (foursomes--alternate shot): Asia 6, International 0
Round Two (four-ball--best-ball): Asia 3.5, International 2.5
Round Three (singles--head-to-head): International 6.5, Asia 5.5

Captains Se Ri Pak and Annika Sorenstam stuck with the same pairings over the first two days and only slightly reordered them. Thus, Super Sophs Seon Hwa Lee and Jee Young Lee beat Natalie Gulbis and Suzann Pettersen twice, 3&2 and 2-up (although when Pettersen withdrew with a back injury after ten holes of the second round had been completed, Gulbis reduced their 3-up lead to 1 before finally succumbing) and Ji-Yai Shin and Amy Hung beat Maria Hjorth and Brittany Lincicome twice, 4&2 and 2&1. The other two rematches did not go as well for Team Asia: Sarah Lee and Meena Lee lost to Cristie Kerr and Nicole Castrale 3&2 Saturday after beating them 1-up Friday; similarly, Jeong Jang and Shi Hyun Ahn lost to Angela Park and Nikki Campbell 3&2 after beating them 2&1. Meanwhile, Candie Kung and Ayako Uehara followed up their shocking defeat of Sorenstam and Catriona Matthew 3&2 with an almost equally surprising tie with Morgan Pressel and Stacy Prammanasudh. And Pak and In-Kyung Kim teamed up for two wins, first 2&1 over Pressel and Prammanasudh, then 1-up against Sorenstam and Matthew.

After the first two rounds, then, Team International needed a miracle on Sunday. Thanks to Pak's generosity in agreeing to rest her injured shoulder and share a half-point with the injured Pettersen, rather than showing up on the first tee and collecting the full point, Team Asia would need to get only 1.5 more points on the day to retain the cup. Here's how it played out:

Sorenstam def. Kung, 4&3 (9.5-3.5)--Annika now 6-2-1, Candie now 5-2-2 in the Cup
JY Lee def. Castrale, 2&1 (10.5-3.5)--Jee Young now 5-1-0
Park def. Hung, 3&1 (10.5-4.5)--Angela now 2-1-0
Kim def. Prammanasudh, 2&1 (11.5-4.5)--In-Kyung now 3-0-0
SH Lee def. Kerr, 3&2 (12.5-4.5)--Seon Hwa now 6-0-0
S Lee def. Campbell, 3&1 (13.5-4.5)
Hjorth def. Ahn, 3&2 (13.5-5.5)
Uehara and Matthew halve (14-6)
Pressel def. Jang, 2&1 (14-7)
Lincicome def. M Lee, 1-up (14-8)
Shin and Gulbis halve (14.5-8.5)--huge comeback for Ji-Yai, who's now 2-0-1
Pak and Pettersen "halve" (15-9)

In the end, the fighting Super Soph Lees and rookie In-Kyung Kim were the only players to go undefeated; for Seon Hwa and Jee Young, leading their team to victory in the Lexus Cup must have felt a lot better than being among the few bright spots for a loaded yet defeated Team Korea in the Kyoraku Cup last week. Moreover, at 12-1-0 in match play over the past two seasons (the only loss occurring in the second round of the 2006 HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship to fellow rookie Brittany Lang), Seon Hwa is far and away the best in the world at this format over the past two seasons--yet at 8-3-0 Jee Young is one of the few within shouting distance of her.

Fellow Super Soph Morgan Pressel again salvaged another disappointing team match play event in 2007 with a closing individual victory; at the Solheim Cup, it was over Sorenstam, here it was over Jang. But the leader of Team International turned out to be Rookie of the Year Angela Park; in fact, she was the only player on her side to garner a winning record. Even so, she was outshone by her fellow rookie In-Kyung Kim.

Perhaps we're beginning to see an interesting rivalry emerge in this competition. For it to go to the next level, the best in the world over a season have to join in, year in and year out. I'm talking about players like Lorena Ochoa and Paula Creamer for Team International and Mi Hyun Kim, Momoko Ueda, and Ai Miyazato for Team Asia. It was great to see Kung make a comeback and Kim, Hung, and Uehara make such successful debuts, but when even players coming off disappointing seasons by their standards, such as Ahn and Meena Lee, made the team, it suggests that too many in Asia (and especially in Japan) don't rank the Lexus Cup as highly as their fans would hope. (Mi Hyun and Ai-chan had good excuses for bowing out this year--injuries and slump, respectively, but for only the lowest-ranked member of the victorious Kyoraku Cup Team Japan to join Team Asia is something that should not be repeated in future Lexus Cups.)

Well, that's it for the 2007 LPGA season. After two final-season rankings a little later this month, that's it for the golf blogging until 2008. I write this as imoto is charging through the computer room wielding two plastic golf clubs like samurai swords....


spyder said...

Well at least none of the ladies pulled off the psychotic breakdown collapse of Ernie Els on international television; triple bogey on 18 to lose the tournament when he had it apparently locked. One could almost hope there was some organized crime pressure on him to lose, because these sorts of disasters have a nasty lifetime, creeping back time and again in a player's career.

All in all the Lexus was a good challenge. Perhaps in the future the LPGA might actually consider residency rather than citizenship as a qualifying characteristic.

*** the captcha letters seem to be the initials for the District of Columbia Joint Union School District.

The Constructivist said...

kewl captcha. too bad for Ernie. going for a par-5 with water on both sides of the green in 2 while protecting a lead is positively VandeVeldian. just a weird decision.