Women’s professional golf is historically global this summer with two very important competitions. The LPGA International Crown will be played July 18-24 in Libertyville, Illinois — near Chicago. The Women’s Golf Olympic Competition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will be played August 17-20. These two international women’s golf events may never line up like this again – at least until the 2020 Olympics.
Even though both tournaments are many months away, speculation is already building as to what women golfers and what countries will be participating. Commentators on LPGA Tour events will increasingly reference what players might make the teams. How the players are selected and the formats for each competition are both similar and different. So here is what you need to know about the “Crown” and the “Olympics”.
It all begins with the Women’s Rolex World Golf Rankings. Named for the famous watchmaker and title sponsor, the Rolex Rankings began in 2006 and continually rank the performance of golfers who play on the top women’s professional golf tours all around the world. Where a player ranks on the Rolex World Rankings will be the basis for who plays in both the Crown and the Olympics.
Want to know the current rankings? See www.rolexrankings.com or visit www.lpga.com/statistics. The Rolex Rankings use mathematical formulas based not only on a player’s performance but also on the strength of the competition in that tournament. If you like math, visit the FAQ section on the Rolex Rankings website.
The LPGA UL International Crown
The International Crown is a “team” competition: country vs. country. It was introduced into the LPGA schedule in 2014 to be played every other year. The Solheim Cup is played in the alternate years. The Crown is the brainchild of LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan.
The Commissioner explained to me in an interview with him a few years ago that real progress had been made on building a team culture among the LPGA Tour players. At the same time, he recognized the national pride that each player carried in her heart. He thought that the LPGA Tour was ready for some country-vs-country team competition that was broader than the Solheim Cup and that included LPGA Tour players from Asia and Australia. The International Crown tournament was born!
The format for the Crown is similar to the Solheim Cup in that it is all match play. The first three days are four-ball-competition (two-player teams from one country against two-player teams from other countries) with the winners earning team points. The final round is single head-to-head match play with a creative “wild card” playoff component. In 2014, Spain took home the first International Crown beating the U.S., South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Sweden, Australia and Chinese Taipei teams.
What COUNTRIES will compete for the 2016 Crown?
We won’t know that answer until April 4th after the conclusion of the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club in Palm Springs, California when the final scores are entered into the Rolex World Rankings. Then the Rolex Rankings of the top four players from each country will be added for a combined “country” score. The eight countries with the highest total country score, that is the sum of the rankings of their top four players, will be eligible to compete for the Crown. But that’s just half the story.
What PLAYERS will compete for their country in the Crown?
We won’t know what players will represent each of the eight Crown countries for another two months – eight more tournaments and until the conclusion of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on June 13th in Seattle, Washington. Then it’s back to the updated Rolex World Rankings. Finally: The four players with the top Rolex Rankings in those eight countries will compete for the UL International Crown.
If the International Crown were held as I write this article – at the conclusion of the Founders Cup on March 20th, the following countries would compete (in order of Rolex Rankings): Korea, USA, Japan, Chinese Taipei, England, Thailand, Australia and Sweden. The Rolex Rankings will be updated after the conclusion of the LPGA’s Kia Classic on Monday, March 28. But remember, there is a lot of golf to be played between now and June 13th when the players from each of the countries are finally selected to compete for the Crown.
The LPGA International Crown accomplishes just what Commissioner Whan wanted: More global competition for the LPGA Tour with more excitement, drama and suspense as the season progresses. To keep up with the countries and players at a given point in time see www.ulcrown.com/team-standings. And, of course, we won’t know what country will take home the 2016 International Crown until the tournament’s final round on July 24th – three weeks before the Olympics golf competition begins.
The 2016 Olympic Games – Women’s Golf Competition
It has been over 100 years since golf was an Olympic event. But it’s back after many years of collaboration among the leaders of the world’s golf organizations, the International Golf Federation and the leaders of the 2016 Olympic Games. For a fun look at history – including women’s golf more than a century ago – see the International Golf Federation’s story, History of Golf at the Games.
The women’s golf competition at the Olympic Games begins Wednesday, August 17th and ends on Saturday, August 20th. Sixty women are expected to compete. The Women’s Olympic competition format is much less complicated than the LPGA International Crown. (Not surprising that the Olympic Games have figured out many logistics over a century of competitions.)
Although golfers will represent their country, unlike the Crown the Olympic golf competition is individual stroke play – four rounds of 18 holes for a total of 72 holes. For more information about scoring formats read my article – Match Play or Stroke Play: What Do You Like?
The three women golfers with the lowest number of strokes over the four days of matches will win the gold, silver and bronze medal. And of course, as they stand on the podiums, they will be representing their country.
What female golfers will compete in the Olympics for their country?
The answer leads back to the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. On July 11th at the conclusion of the USGA U.S. Women’s Open at beautiful CordeValle Golf Course south of San Francisco, California (one of my most favorite courses), the Rolex Rankings will be updated to reflect the golfers’ performances. The top 59 world-ranked female players and one player from Brazil, the host country will be eligible for the Olympics.
That sounds pretty simple! But here’s the complication: Out of the eligible players, there cannot be more than four players from any given country. To ensure even more global competition, after the four-player limit from eligible countries is reached, no more than two players can be selected from any other eligible country.
The eligibility rules for the men’s Olympic Golf competition are the same as the women’s. The International Golf Federation also has the details of what countries and what male golfers will be competing in the Olympic games.
There are fourteen more LPGA Tournaments on the schedule before the Olympic team is set on July 11th after the U.S. Women’s Open. So expect players to sharpen their skills and play their best and hope they will be in Rio de Janeiro on August 17th. Good luck to all!
Nancy Berkley is an expert on women’s golf and junior-girls golf in the U.S. A special interest of hers is encouraging business women to enjoy golf with colleagues and clients. Nancy is a member of the World Golf Foundation Women’s Committee and a member of the National Golf Foundation. Nancy is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Harvard University, Rutgers Law School and has a degree from the Professional Management Program of Harvard Business School.
Describing herself as a good bogey golfer with permanent potential, Nancy shares news about women’s golf – along with her opinions on www.berkleygolfconsulting.com and www.nancyberkley.com. You can also follow Nancy on Facebook and Twitter.