The only event that pits the world’s best golfing countries against each other is finally back on the LPGA schedule after nearly five years: the Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crown. Each of the four best players from eight countries will battle it out this week for international glory and the field is studded with stars. Arguably, all the country versus country matches are must-see events, but a few stand out above the rest.
No. 2 Republic of Korea vs. No. 6 Thailand
On Friday, some of the biggest names in golf will go head-to-head when Korea (Jin Young Ko, Hyo Joo Kim, In Gee Chun and Hye Jin Choi) faces off against Thailand (Atthaya Thitikul, Patty Tavatanakit, Moriya Jutanugarn and Ariya Jutanugarn). Former world No. 1s will clash in the forms of Ko, Thitikul and Ariya Jutanugarn. When Tavatanakit, Kim and Chun tee off, major champions will once again prove their mettle. The resume each player brings to TPC Harding Park would compile into a novel, so it’s easy to see why this pool play matchup will be one for the ages.
Korea’s team is highlighted by Ko, who recently returned to winning form after an injury-stunted 2022. Ko has already won once on Tour this season, successfully defending her title at the HSBC Women’s World Championship. The 14-time LPGA winner has racked up three additional top-10 finishes in just six starts this season. Thitikul leads the team from Thailand, also owning four top-10 results in six starts. Dating back to 2022, the reigning Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year has carded 11 top-10 finishes in 13 appearances.
No. 3 Japan vs. No. 7 Australia
The next exciting matchup will also take place on Friday when Japan (Nasa Hataoka, Ayaka Furue, Yuka Saso and Hinako Shibuno) meets Australia (Minjee Lee, Hannah Green, Stephanie Kyriacou and Sarah Kemp). Though Japan owns the higher seed, boasts 6-time LPGA winner Hataoka and has two major champions in Saso and Shibuno, they still won’t be playing comfortably against the ladies from Down Under. Leading the Australians is Lee, who is coming off a banner year in 2022 where she won the Rolex ANNIKA Major award – courtesy of her win at the U.S. Women’s Open and runner up finish at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship – and just narrowly missed earning Rolex Player of the Year honors. Green will also be a heavy hitter, having just found her third LPGA victory last week in a playoff at the JM Eagle LA Championship presented by Plastpro. Such a recent win is sure to put a little extra finesse into Green’s swing, which only serves to make this matchup more exciting.
No. 1 United States vs. No. 4 Sweden
On the final day of pool play, the United States (Nelly Korda, Lilia Vu, Lexi Thompson and Danielle Kang) will battle against Sweden (Maja Stark, Madelene Sagstrom, Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall). The U.S. is led by youngsters, Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings No. 1 Korda and Chevron champion Vu, who combined lead the Tour in almost every category. Eleven-time LPGA winner Thompson and six-time LPGA winner Kang round out the group with some veteran experience. The U.S. has fielded a team with so much star power they will be fun to watch whenever and wherever, but it will be even more exciting to see them take on the challenge that Sweden presents. The Swedes are led by Stark, who joined the Tour last year after her win at the ISPS Handa World Invitational. Stark has gotten off to a strong start in 2023, finding two top-10 finishes, including a runner-up result at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions. Stark is backed by Nordqvist, a nine-time winner on the LPGA Tour, including three major championships, and the current leader on the LPGA in greens in regulation (78.2%). Sagstrom is also an LPGA Tour winner and Hedwall is a five-time Solheim Cupper, boasting an 8-6-1 record.