There was a slightly defiant tone when the four American players in the LPGA's inaugural International Crown marched into the interview room at Caves Valley Golf Club after being swept by Taiwan in Thursday's opening matches.
Stacy Lewis, the top-ranked women's player in the world, said that other teams could struggle as the Americans did as the matches went on. Paula Creamer talked about regaining the momentum the U.S. had coming in.
Regaining their ability to make birdies, and rejuvenated by other results echoing through the woods of the Owings Mills club, the Americans made good on their promises and put themselves back into contention to lift the trophy come Sunday.
The Americans swept Spain Friday – an impressive 3 and 2 victory by Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson over Belen Mozo and Beatriz Recari coming first, followed by a 2-up victory for Lewis and Creamer over Azahara Munoz and Carlota Ciganda.
After being the only team to not earn a single point Thursday, the U.S. found itself trailing Thailand, Saturday's opponent, by a point and tied with Taiwan in Pool A. The top two teams advance automatically to singles after Saturday.
The comeback of the U.S., which came in as the top seed with all four of its players among the top 12 in Rolex World Rankings, could be heard in the chants of the crowd and will certainly help boost interest in the tournament over the weekend.
While the victory by Kerr and Thompson was fairly routine -- after seeing an early two-hole lead disappear by the turn, they won the first three holes on the back nine -- things got a little tight for Lewis and Creamer toward the end.
Three up with four holes to play, the Americans watched Munoz make birdie on the par-5 to close the gap. After all four players made par on the par-5 16th, Ciganda made a long birdie putt on 17 to pull within one.
It was the fifth of the eight matches to come down to the par-4 18th hole.
All four players put their tee shots in the fairway. After Lewis and Creamer both put their approach shots on the green, about 20 feet from the cup, both Munoz and Ciganda found greenside bunkers.
The Spaniards got out of the sand, but neither came close to the flag.
Creamer lagged to within a foot and the U.S. was conceded both the hole and the match.
The revival of the U.S. breathed some life back into the American fans, including 18-time Olympic champion Michael Phelps, who slapped hands with Creamer and Lewis as they reached the ninth teee. It also tightened up Pool A after the U.S. had fallen to the bottom of the four-team bracket on Thursday.
Bottom-seed Taiwan, which had swept the U.S. in the opening day matches, struggled against fourth-seeded Thailand. Teenage sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn each birdied the first hole and combined for seven total -- five by 18-year-old Moriya -- in a 3 and 2 win over veterans Candie Kung and Teresa Lu.
Pornanong Phatlum and Onnarin Sattayabanphot beat Yani Tseng, who nearly singlehandedly defeated Lewis and Creamer Thursday, and Phoebe Thompson, 1-up when Sattayabanphot made an 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole.
In Pool B, Japan's Mamiko Higa and Mika Miyazato beat LPGA Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, the oldest and most accomplished player in the event, and 18-year-old amateur Minjee Lee, 3-and-2. Ai Miyazato and Sakura Yokomine were 6-down with seven holes to play, but wound up halving their match as Australians Katherine Kirk and Lindsey Wright collapsed.
In the other Pool B match between South Korea and Sweden, Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu lost 1-up to Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist. Na Yeon Choi and I.K. Kim won 1-up over Pernilla Lindberg and Mikaela Parmlid with three holes to play.
With six points, Japan leads South Korea by two points. Sweden and Australia both have three.
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