The first of three national team events on the 2023 professional golf calendar, the Hanwha LifePlus International Crown kicks off tomorrow at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Traditionally a biennial tournament, it’s been almost five years (thanks COVID) since the last edition. It’s a welcome return. The fun format features the top eight countries in the Rolex Rankings fielding four-player teams competing in fourballs, foursomes, and singles matches to determine a victor. The top-ranked United States enters looking for a second title, though they’ll have stiff competition from defending champion South Korea. The rest of the loaded field includes Japan, Sweden, England, Thailand, Australia, and China, all looking to be crowned (literally) come Sunday.
With the Presidents Cup sticking to a male-only format and the Olympics bafflingly ignoring team competition, the International Crown is the only opportunity to see women outside of the United States and Europe represent their countries as a team. This remains a shame, as the rest of the world produces some pretty good golfers.
The South Korean team’s lowest-ranked player is Hye Jin Choi, currently 25th in the world. The Thai team boasts last year’s Rookie of the Year Atthaya Thitikul, major champion Patty Tavatanakit, and sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn. Underdogs like Team China and Team Australia still have recent winners Ruoning Yin and Hannah Green leading their squads. Anyone looking for a preview of this fall’s Solheim Cup will be disappointed by last minute withdrawals from Team England’s top-ranked players, Georgia Hall and Charley Hull. Top Swede Linn Grant won’t get a team golf test run either, skipping the trip over vaccine restrictions.
Unfortunately, as is often the case for some of the LPGA’s best events, the TV coverage leaves much to be desired. There is no network TV broadcast. Golf Channel will air just three primetime hours each day. The only bonus streaming option appears to be for the semifinal matches Sunday morning, which will be shoved over to Peacock. Featuring a foursomes match and two singles matches, the semifinal could be the most exciting session of the whole weekend. Why make it harder for viewers to find it? Despite the typical coverage frustrations, it’s still worth focusing on the big positive: this week, almost all of the best women in the world are playing for their countries, on an interesting, major-market golf course, in a non-stroke play format. Keep innovating like that and the LPGA could develop a unique formula that even designated events can’t match.
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.