The favored United States team had to settle for a 1-1 record on the first day of the fourth Hanwha Lifeplus International Crown, as Sweden looked like the team to beat at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
Top-ranked Nelly Korda and No. 4-ranked Lilia Vu of Fountain Valley and UCLA rallied for a 2-and-1 victory over Ruoning Yin and Xiyu Lin of China, but Ruixin Liu and Yu Liu rallied to give the Chinese a 1-up upset of upset of seventh-ranked Lexi Thompson and 14th-ranked Danielle Kang of Thousand Oaks and Pepperdine.
“It was pretty much a grind, but then we kind of ran away with it toward the end,” said Korda, the 2020 Olympic Gold Medalist in Japan.
Added Vu, who has won twice this season on the LPGA Tour: “I felt like we were struggling off the tee a little bit, but we were still getting chances for birdies, they just weren’t falling. Then once No. 13 came along, we built a lot of momentum and just kept going.”
Korda and Vu were 1-down to Yin and Lin at the turn before winning three straight holes on the back nine thanks to birdies by Vu on the 13th and 15th holes, and remained in command the rest of the way.
The Lius girls of China never trailed against Kang and Thompson, taking a 2-up lead on the sixth hole, but the Americans pulled even after 11 holes, before the Chinese took a 1-up lead and rode it all the way to the finish.
Madelene Sagstrom and unheralded Maja Stark of Sweden routed Liz Young and Alice Hewson of England, 5 and 4, and Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Heswall defeated Bronte Law, who played at UCLA, and Jodi Ewart Shadoff of England, 4 and 3, as the Swedes won both their matches in Group A.
“I was very nervous when we started so I thought it was going to be smooth sailing, but it really wasn’t,” said Stark, who was the big surprise. “I was eager to hit further and really beat them, so I was a bit too eager in the beginning. Luckily, Madelene played really well. We were 4-under through 3, so that was nice. Then I managed to pull my finger out and make a couple birdies on the back nine to seal the deal.”
“It was a really good matchup. We played really well together. Our games are fairly similar, so it’s fun. We’ve never played team events before because I’m a lot older than her, so it’s cool. It’s awesome. But I think at the same time my experience also kind of helps me being out there. I talked a little bit about how I felt in previous Solheims and stuff, so it was good.
“We played super solid all day, so it’s really nice to get away with a big win.”
In Pool B, Patty Tavatanakit, who played at UCLA, and fifth-ranked Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand defeated Yuka Saso and Ayaka Furue of Japan, 1 up, and sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn beat Nasa Hataoka and Hinako Shibono, 2 up, to give the Thais a 2-0 sweep.
Sixth-ranked Minjee Lee and Stephanie Kyriacou of Australia turned back In Gee Chu and Hye-Jim Choi of South Korea, 2 up, while Hannah Green and Sarah Kemp gave the Aussies a 2-0 victory over the South Koreans by upsetting third-ranked Jin Young Ko and ninth-ranked Hoo-Joo Kim, 2 and 1.
For complete results and schedule, visit https://www.lpga.com/tournaments/international-crown/leaderboard