05 May 2023 | Professional golf |

Aussies take down Koreans at Crown

by Tony Webeck

Minjee Lee, Steph Kyriacou Crown image
Steph Kyriacou and Minjee Lee were part of an unbeaten Australian group today. Photo: Getty

Team Australia is positioned for a shock semi-final appearance following a Round 1 clean sweep of No.2 seed Korea at the Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crown in San Francisco.

Ranked the No.7 seed based on the world rankings of team members Minjee Lee (six), Hannah Green (14), Stephanie Kyriacou (118) and Sarah Kemp (161), the Aussies asserted themselves early and never trailed in either fourball match.

The pairing of Lee and Kyriacou were 3 up through three holes against Hye-Jin Choi and In Gee Chun, Kyriacou providing the perfect platform with a birdie at the first.

They were 3 up through 11 holes before the Korean team launched a stunning fightback of their own.

Choi birdied 12 and 13 and then made par on 14, enough to win three straight holes to haul her team back to level terms.

Lee responded with a birdie at the par-4 15th, the two teams trading pars over the following two holes.

With a half-point guaranteed, Kyriacou then ripped a 3-wood from 209 metres to six feet at the par-5 18th, her proximity to the hole effectively closing out an impressive 2 up win.

“I didn’t watch In Gee’s or Hye-Jin’s shot because I didn’t want it to get in my head, I guess,” said Kyriacou.

“It was a pretty open shot, I guess. The pin was very gettable, so I just tried to whack the crap out of a 3-wood.”

The combination of LA Championship winner Hannah Green and patriotic veteran Sarah Kemp also proved potent against world No.3 Jin Young Ko and world No.9 Hyo Joo Kim.

Two birdies from Green and one from Kemp gave the Aussies a 2 up lead through four holes and from there they were never headed.

Birdies from Ko at 12 and Kim at 14 narrowed the deficit to just one hole but Kemp’s clutch birdie on 14 and Green’s impressive half on 16 ensured the Aussies completed a 2&1 victory.

“I’m not surprised that this happened,” said Kemp who is in her tournament debut.

“We had a great time last night. We’ve had a great week. We’re just all having a good time and it doesn’t surprise me that we did what we did today.

“For my first day of my first International Crown, to start like this is pretty awesome.”

Hinting that the pairings are unlikely to change for day two, Lee said that two wins in Round 1 sets them up for a great shot at the title.

“Because all the teams in our pool are really strong, to come out on the first day and have a really good day, it really sets the pace for the next few days,” said the reigning US Women’s Open champion.

“I think it was really an important win for us today.”

Australia’s next assignment is against Japan in Round 2 after the Japanese team lost both of their matches to Thailand on day one.

Team Sweden trounced Team England in both of their Pool A matches while Team USA and Team China took a match apiece in their clash.

It was a strong start too for Adam Scott at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Seeking his first PGA TOUR top-10 since the BMW Championship last August, Scott opened with a four-under 67 despite a double bogey at the par-4 11th.

He made another bogey at the par-3 13th bur birdies at 12, 14 and 15 brought him back to within two of Round 1 leader Tommy Fleetwood (65).

The champion at Quail Hollow in 2018, Jason Day opened with a one-over 72 on Thursday, Cam Davis one better with 71 and a share of 58th.

Four straight bogeys early in his round put Harrison Endycott on the back foot, signing for a three-over 74.

Maverick Antcliff is the best-placed Australian after Round 1 of the UAE Challenge on the Challenge Tour while Terry Pilkadaris is the sole Aussie inside the top 30 as Round 2 of the Maekyung Open in Korea gets underway.

Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crown

Round 1 results

Minjee Lee/Steph Kyriacou def. Hye-Jin Choi/In Gee Chun 2 up

Hannah Green/Sarah Kemp def. Jin Young Ko and Hyo Joo Kim 2&1

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