Orlando, Fla. -- The LPGA, building on the growing popularity of the women’s tour and the biennial Solheim Cup matches, announced Thursday the International Crown, a new global event featuring eight countries and the top four players from each of those nations.
Tour commissioner Mike Whan told an overflow crowd of PGA Merchandise Show attendees that the four-day match-play competition would debut in July 2014 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill., will host the second of the even-year competitions in 2016.
Each member of the winning team will earn $100,000 in the event that will feature a $1.6 million purse.
“When I was sitting [at the Solheim Cup] last year, I got a lot of questions from media and the fans,” said Whan, who earlier this month announced an expanded 2013 schedule with three new events. “‘The Solheim Cup is great, but shouldn't we be adding an international component or a continent or the rest of Asia? Shouldn't we have a U.S. versus the rest of the world like The Presidents Cup? Why don't we play U.S. versus Korea?’
“There were a lot of ideas that came our way and one of the things [was] clear to me,” he noted. “You don't mess with this event....The last thing I’m going to do is change the Solheim Cup.”
The International Crown adds another event to the 2014 calendar and brings the commissioner (who also announced Thursday he would begin tweeting under the @LPGACommish Twitter handle) closer to his goal of staging 30-32 tournaments in a season.
“The International Crown will take women’s golf to the next level,” Whan said.
Cumulative Rolex Rankings points will determine who gets to compete for the crown, with the eight teams based on each country’s top four players at the end of the 2013 CME Group Titleholders in November. Each squad’s players will be determined according to the world rankings as of the Monday of the Kraft Nabisco Championship next spring.
Today, for example, according to current rankings, South Korea, the U.S., Japan, Sweden, Australia, Spain, Taiwan, and England would have the honor of vying for the first crown.
“Finally!” Stacy Lewis, the tour’s top-ranked American, said about the creation of the global competition. “We have been waiting a long time for this....The public and our viewers are going to see that passion in the other countries, too...and...get to know the other players better."
Yani Tseng echoed Lewis’ enthusiasm.
“Every time I was watching the Solheim Cup, I always wished I can be there playing,” said the world No. 1, who celebrated her 24th birthday on January 23. “You need four players in the country...so I need to work hard [to make the team].”
The new event will differ from the Solheim Cup, which, like the Ryder Cup, pits the U.S. against Europe. In a unique twist, there will be no coaches or captains, with the players deciding who plays whom.
Under the format, each country will do golfing battle with three others in one of two brackets in four-ball matches for the first three rounds. Five countries will advance to Sunday singles play.
With the event falling in the middle of the season, close to the U.S. Women’s Open, Whan said it would be most convenient for the players -- many of whom live here -- for the U.S. to host the tournament.
“When you play for your country,” said second-ranked Na Yeon Choi, “this is a great opportunity. Doesn't matter where it's going to be. I'll be there, if we qualify for this."
Whan said he hoped the international nature of the competition would boost interest in the Rio games, which will take place a month later.
“It’s like preparing for the Olympics,” said Tseng. “It’s really going to be awesome.”