124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

International Crown

Thailand sweeps Australia to claim the International Crown, convincingly outclassing the eight-team field


Ariya Jutanugarn, Moriya Jutanugarn, Patty Tavatanakit and Atthaya Thitikul celebrate Team Thailand's victory on Sunday at the International Crown.

Mike Mulholland

SAN FRANCISCO — Dominant doesn’t do justice in describing the performance of Team Thailand at this week’s Hanwha LifePlus International Crown, capped fittingly by a 3-0 sweep of Australia in Sunday afternoon’s finals at TPC Harding Park.

Over four days, the foursome of Atthaya Thitikul, Patty Tavatanakit and sisters Moriya and Ariya Jutanugarn made a litany of history as the team match-play event returned to the LPGA schedule for the first time in five years. They were the first team to sweep pool play. Their 11 collective wins (out of 12 overall matches) was the most of any country in any of the three previous editions of the event. They were the lowest seed (six) to ever win, besting Spain as a five-seed in in inaugural crown 2014.

“We've been waiting for this since 2014, our first time playing in the event,” Ariya Jutanugarn said. “Finally, we got what we have been working for.”

And it was truly a team effort, Thitkul building up momentum in her singles match with Australia’s Stephanie Kyraciou, taking the lead for good on the back nine and winning 4 and 2 to remain undefeated on the week.

In the second singles match, Tavatanakit won the second hole against Hannah Green and didn’t surrender the lead, cruising to a 4-and-3 victory over arguably the hottest player on the LPGA Tour to guarantee the victory over the Aussies.

Fittingly in the anchor match, the Jutanugarn sisters did the Jutanugarn sisters thing. Starting a bit slowly after going 18 holes in the morning before beating Nelly Korda and Danielle Kang, 1 up, to close out the Americans in the semifinals, Moriya and Ariya won four straight holes from Nos. 7 to 10 against Minjee Lee and Sarah Kemp. For good measure, Ariya, already aware her team had won the Crown, chipped in on the 15th to close out a 4-and-3 win and start the celebration. She earned the first-ever MVP trophy at the Crown.

In a sign of Thailand’s brilliance, Australia only held the lead for six holes between the three finals matches. “We are one of the best team in the world,” Atthaya Thitikul said. “And I think we can be there with [any] team in the world.”

Thailand's toughest test Sunday came against the U.S. in the morning semifinals session. Thitikul beat Lexi Thompson handily, but Tavatanakit's loss to Lilia Vu put the pressure on the Jutanugarn sisters. The Thai siblings sat tied on the 17th, delivering a birdie-birdie finish to win their semifinals match.

“They're [Team USA] great players, but at the end of the day, like I said again, it's match play; anything can happen,” Tavatanakit said after the semifinals. “It's just basically hole by hole, shot by shot.”

The Americans won the third-place match against Sweden, with Kang and Korda winning 1 up against Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist to secure the consolation victory.

The Thai quartet credited the bond formed throughout the week in providing a bedrock of confidence to win the Crown. It's another seminal moment for the country in terms of its golf ascendance, the players proving they belong alongside the rest of the world on an international stage. Tavatanakit says the victory will add more momentum to the growing popularity of the sport at home.

“It's so great for our country, and you can already see there's a lot of rookies this year from Thailand,” Tavatanakit said. “This is going to keep making it growing and keep inspiring young people. I'm just so proud of all of us to be able to play and give it all we got and just try to make our home country proud.”