INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA | The best matches of the week at the UL International Crown will take almost that long to finish. From the beginning, the most anticipated matchup in the first three sessions was between the No. 1 seed home team, South Korea, and the grittiest team in the field, England. Because they were both in the same pool, England and South Korea were guaranteed to meet in the round-robin format.
Those two four-ball matches should have come on Saturday morning after England – Bronte Law, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Charley Hull and Georgia Hall – won three of its first four matches against Australia and Taiwan and halved the fourth. Given that a win in the tournament’s scoring system is worth two points and a halve is worth one, the English squad led the field after the first two sessions with seven points. South Korea was tied for second with the U.S. with six points (although the U.S. was in the other pool). That set up the showdown: a fiery, working-class group of English girls who grew up playing together and have been friends since they were old enough to swing clubs against the best team in the history of this event, fielding four major champions, among them the No. 1-ranked player in the world, Sung Hyun Park.
But then Typhoon Kong-rey slid up the Korean coast at Category 1 strength. LPGA officials decided to break up session three in case Saturday were to be a washout. Friday morning times were moved up and after everyone finished and was given 45 minutes to find lunch and a warm pair of socks, it was back to golf. And at 3:25 and 3:40 on Friday afternoon, with cold rain peppering the already drenched layout at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, Park and I.K. Kim went out against Hull and Hall, while So Yeon Ryu and In Gee Chun went out last against Law and Ewart Shadoff.
A moment of levity came early when the starter conflated a couple of English names and announced, “Now on the tee, Bronte Hall,” which sounds like either a lovely estate in Oxfordshire or the building at Yale where kids take upper-level literature classes. But the fun turned serious on the first hole after Chun rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt and Law followed it up by holing a 9-footer of her own to halve. That’s when the 23-year-old from Manchester marched to the second tee like Allenby tracking Boers.
Law strode mightily again after making birdie on the par-3 fifth to take a 1-up lead in what is looking like the match of the matches.
“This morning, I was frustrated because I felt like I wasn’t really carrying my weight and we won because of So Yeon,” Chun said of the four-ball match on Friday morning in which the pair beat Minjee Lee and Sarah Jane Smith from Australia, 2 and 1. “I really wanted to carry my weight as a teammate for So Yeon so I holed two early birdies (against England) and that got us off to a good start.”
But even though Chun was playing better late in the day, the Koreans were happy to call it a night. When play was suspended just before 6 p.m. local time England led, 1 up, through six holes.
“We’re happy that play stopped when it did,” Ryu said. “Jodi and Bronte had a really good morning where they won (6 and 4 against Candie Kung and Phoebe Yao of Taiwan). They were in really good form so having this break may break up their momentum and give us an opportunity.”
Ryu then joked that, “This weather looks like England so maybe that’s why they played so well today.”
In the other match, Kim and Park went on a tear, birdieing four of the first five holes and missing a relatively simple birdie on the difficult par-4 sixth. They led, 4 up, through eight when play was called but were also thrilled to be done. “It’s a good thing,” Park said. “I think we’re both quite exhausted and it was a getting a bit dark so it was becoming difficult to read the putts. So I think taking a break now is actually good for us.”
— UL Intl Crown (@ULIntlCrown) October 5, 2018
There will be no play until 2:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, if they play at all. Typhoons, like hurricanes and cyclones, are as unpredictable as they are destructive. But when play does resume, expect the Koreans to be back in form.
“In this format, everybody looks ahead to singles because that’s where you can get the most points (eight total, two for each singles match, as opposed to four total in each of the previous sessions),” Ryu said. “But it’s extremely important for us to get as many points as possible in these four-ball sessions so we don’t have a lot of ground to make up in singles.
“We also have an edge because of the gallery,” Ryu said. “As miserable as the conditions were, fans still came out to support us. I was quite surprised to see how many people came out and watched (in the cold rain). That gives us a boost. It really helps.”
Get ready – there’s more golf coming your way! pic.twitter.com/Sxd5iTzYTw
— LPGA (@LPGA) October 5, 2018