Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Professional / LPGA Tour

England set for must-watch showdown with 

USA at UL International Crown, Illinois

Melissa Reid and Charley Hull, shown at the 2015 Solheim Cup
Melissa Reid and Charley Hull, shown at the 2015 Solheim Cup (Getty Images)
GURNEE, Illinois – Wait, there’s a crown? The news that winners of the UL International Crown receive an actual crown came as a surprise to England’s Charley Hull. She smiled broadly at the prospect.
Melissa Reid said she’d probably wear it to the first tee of next week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open at Woburn, just north of London.
“I’d be driving with it on my head and people passing on the motorway wondering what the heck is going on,” said Holly Clyburn.
“Is she the queen?”
Well yes, for a day at least.
Team England, seeded seventh at the International Crown, is making its debut at this event. They’ll take on the second-seeded Americans on Day 1 at the Merit Club. On paper, of course, England is the underdog. But some of these golfers first played for England together some 16 years ago. They’re a close bunch.
Three of the four have competed on winning Solheim Cup teams. Clyburn, the LPGA rookie, played with Hull on the Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup team that shocked the Americans in 2012.
They’re seasoned. And they all know what its like to beat the Americans.
“All four of us thrive on match-play situations,” said Jodi Ewart Shadoff, the former New Mexico standout who married an American sports broadcaster.
“We told Jodi that she’s got to get rid of her little American twang,” Reid said. They’ve taken to giving her Yorkshire lessons.
Is there a rivalry?
Clyburn, for one, certainly thinks so. She rightly surmised that the England vs. USA showdown will be the talk of the press on Thursday.
Cristie Kerr, one of three Americans returning from 2014 along with Lexi Thompson and Stacy Lewis, said it’s important for USA to go out and set the tone.
“England is a tough team,” said Kerr.
Lewis loves the way officials have set up the Merit Club, with plenty of red numbers for the taking. With drivable par 4s and reachable par 5s, the Chicago-area crowds are in for a hot contest, with temperatures pushing 95 degrees.
“We’re not going to be struggling to make pars,” said Lewis, “and it’s going to look great on TV.”
The England vs. USA showdown is the classic match-play conundrum. A fantastic clash, to be sure, but one that should’ve come later in the week.