Taiwan sweeps US in 1st day of International Crown

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — A winless day left the top-seeded United States with the feeling there’s nothing left to lose in their quest to capture the International Crown

Yani Tseng made a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to give Taiwan a sweep of the Americans in the opening round of the 32-player, eight-team tournament Thursday.

Tseng and Phoebe Yao never trailed in a 1-up win over Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson after Candie Kung and Teresa Lu beat Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr 4 and 3.

“There’s probably more pressure with being No. 1, but we all knew coming into match play that anything can happen,” Lewis said. “It always comes down to one putt here and there.”

Tseng made the winning putt after Lewis failed from a bit farther out on her own birdie try.

“I haven’t had this feeling for a long time,” Tseng said. “I made that birdie putt, my hands were shaking.”

Thompson and Lewis had little doubt about whether the ball was going to drop.

“We both kind of had that feeling she was going to make that putt on 18, just the way she had putted all day and the just the way things had gone,” Lewis said.

Each team receives two points for a win and one for a tie. The U.S. was the only team that failed to secure a point on the first day.

“You just have to keep positive and try to find the good in the day,” Kerr said. “We’re going to be coming out guns a blazing. We have nothing to lose from here on in.”

On Friday, the United States will face Spain (3 points) in Pool A, and Taiwan (4) will take on Thailand (1). Pool B matchups are Japan (3) against Australia (2) and South Korea (2) versus Sweden (1).

“There’s a lot of golf left this week, and some teams that maybe won three points today might get shut out tomorrow,” Kerr said.

Taiwan, which entered as the No. 8 seed, now appears to be the team to beat.

“We were having fun. That’s the key point for our team,” Kung said. “We don’t have a whole lot of high expectations. Of course we want to win, we want to take the cup home, but we’re trying to keep everybody low key, keep it calm.”

Japan took the lead in Pool B with a strong performance against Sweden. Although the Japanese team of Ai Miyazato and Sakura Yokomine led from start to finish, it took a birdie on No. 18 by Yokomine to secure a 2-up win over Pernilla Lindberg and Mikaela Parmlid.

“That was a great start, for sure,” Miyazato said. “But still a long way to go. I’m exhausted already, because I used so much energy on the golf course.”

In Japan’s other match, Mamilo Higa and Mika Miyazato halved with Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist, who trailed by two strokes with seven holes left.

“We played really well, both of us, and just gave ourselves a lot of chances,” Hedwall said. “Then they managed to hole a couple more putts than we did. But I think we fought back really nice, and it’s good to get one point at least.”

The first points of the tournament were secured by Spain against Thailand in Pool A. Carlotta Ciganda and Azahara Munoz won 3 and 2 over Pornanong Phatlum and Onnarin Sattayabanphot, and Spain’s Belen Mozo and Beatriz Recari halved with sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn.

That provided the elated Spaniards with three points.

“From the beginning we started playing really well and kept hitting fairways and greens,” Munoz said.

Ciganda and Munoz were no strangers on the golf course.

“I played with Azahara lots of years when we were amateurs, then we went to school together and we played last year at the Solheim Cup,” Ciganda said. “Playing today with her, we were so comfortable out there, just having fun, laughing and making birdies.”

South Korea split with Australia. After Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu forged a 3-and-2 win over Katherine Kirk and Lindsey Wright, Australia’s Karie Webb and 18-year-old amateur Minjee Lee beat I.K. Kim and Na Yeon Choi 2 up.

Park and Ryu both eagled the par-5 12th hole for a three-hole lead and coasted to finish.

The Webb-Lee tandem didn’t lead by more than one stroke until Lee sank her fourth birdie putt on the 18th hole.

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