By John Strege
ORLANDO -- The popularity of the Solheim Cup and the interest it spawned in expanding the number of countries involved was the impetus behind the newest LPGA event, the International Crown, that LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan announced Thursday at the PGA Merchandise Show.
The International Crown will be a biennial event, to debut in July of 2014, featuring teams from eight countries, comprised of their top four highest-ranked players from the Rolex Rankings. The first International Crown will be played at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Maryland.
The eight countries will be chosen based on the Rolex Rankings of each country's top four players at the conclusion of the 2013 CME Group Titleholders. The four players from each qualifying country, meanwhile, will come from their four highest-ranked players on the Rolex Rankings as of the Monday of the Kraft Nabisco Championship the spring of 2014.
As for the format, the eight teams will be seeded into two brackets, with each team playing the other teams in its bracket in the first three rounds. Two points will be awarded a victory, one for a halve and none for a loss. They will cut to five teams for Sunday singles.
Whan said that he kept hearing how the Solheim Cup ought to be expanded, given the international flavor of the LPGA, but ultimately decided "you don't mess with the event." Thus an idea previously floated as the Continental Crown began to take shape, culminating with the announcement on Thursday.
It should prove a popular idea among players from countries that are not part of the Solheim Cup, including Taiwan, home of the No. 1-ranked player in the world, Yani Tseng.
"Every time I watched the Solheim Cup I always wished I was there," she said.
The international Cup will have a purse of $1.6 million, with $100,000 going to each of the four members of the winning team.
The second International Crown, in 2016, will be plyed at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill., site of the 2009 Solheim Cup.