/

Asian stars excited about LPGA team showdown

AFP-JIJI

After two decades of watching American and European women golfers play for the Solheim Cup, top worldwide rivals have their chance at a team title in the LPGA International Crown.

The inaugural edition of the event will begin Thursday at suburban Baltimore’s Caves Valley Golf Club with eight teams of four women seeking global bragging rights and the richest share of $1.6 million in prize money.

“Every time I was watching Solheim Cup, I always wish I can be there playing,” Taiwan’s third-ranked Tseng Ya-Ni said.

“This is the only time I can play for my country. It means a lot for me. I always feel like I play for my country, but I never really played for my country, so this is a time I can. I think it’s great.”

Five-time major champion and former world No. 1 Tseng will join Teresa Lu, Candie Kung and Phoebe Yao for Taiwan in Group A, which also includes Spain, Thailand and the overall top seed United States.

The Americans feature world No. 1 Stacy Lewis, fifth-ranked teen Lexi Thompson, former world No. 1 Cristie Kerr and veteran Paula Creamer — all ranked in the world top 12.

But the American women are coming off an 18-10 Solheim Cup loss to Europe last year on home soil, the most lopsided rout in the Ryder Cup-style event’s history. The International Crown offers a chance at redemption.

“I’m so excited. Really look forward to being part of a team event and hopefully win and redeem ourselves,” said 19-year-old Thompson, who won her first major title at this year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Group B is led by South Korea, which features former world No. 1s Choi Na-yeon, the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open winner, and Inbee Park, who won three of her four major titles last year. Ryu So-yeon and I.K. Kim complete a squad that ranks within the world’s top 23.

“We are going to play for our country, which means a lot to us,” Choi said. “We will do our best to make some good results and I hope all of the Korean fans are proud of us.

South Korea is joined in Group B by Japan, Sweden and Australia. The Japanese squad includes former world No. 1 Ai Miyazato, while the Aussies are led by former world No. 1 and seven-time major winner Karrie Webb.