What (already) went wrong with IC
The LPGA is launching a new international team event this week, and it really does seem fortuitous. Television ratings were up at the U.S. Women's Open. American players have won 11 events thus far in 2014, including all three major tournaments. There's increased attention on the tour.
The International Crown -- a team event involving eight nations -- will showcase a diverse range of top women's golfers and has a format very different from competitions like the Solheim Cup, Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. It was created in large part to address who's missing from the biennial USA vs. Europe Solheim Cup, most notably the Asian golfers who have become such a big part of the LPGA Tour since South Korea's Se Ri Pak won two majors in 1998.
But it turns out there's no such thing as a perfect fix. While the inaugural International Crown will include some great players who were never going to be eligible for the Solheim Cup -- like South Korea's Inbee Park and Australia's Karrie Webb -- it won't have some of the most prominent players on tour right now, including Michelle Wie.
The eight nations that qualified were set at the end of the 2013 LPGA season. Then the four players who will be on each team were determined March 31 by the Rolex world rankings. At that time, Wie was not one of the top four Americans. Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer were. In fact, back then, Wie wasn't even close; she was ranked 38th overall and 10th among Americans.
But a lot has changed since. Wie has won twice this season, including her first major title at the U.S. Women's Open on June 22. Her triumph was a boon for TV ratings, which were up 89 percent over last year's final round.
As of this week, Wie is No. 6 in the world and is the third-ranked American, behind No. 1 Lewis and No. 5 Thompson.
If the U.S. team had been set a month ago, rather than four months ago, Wie would be at the International Crown. Creamer would have been the one left out.
It's not as if Creamer doesn't have her following, too. But Wie is a big draw, especially when she's playing well. With her major victory so close in the rearview mirror, it would have been beneficial for the LPGA Tour to have her competing this week. Even without her popularity as a factor, there's the simple fact that right now Wie is one of the LPGA stars playing at her best.
If the LPGA had finalized the teams a month ago, it would better reflect who's currently playing the best, and players would still have plenty of time to prepare. That's something the LPGA should reconsider for 2016.
LPGA Hall of Famer and Golf Channel analyst Judy Rankin said Tuesday that she feels certain there will be some change in that regard. If nothing else, Rankin suggests three members of each team could be set earlier in the year, leaving a final spot open for someone who might climb up the rankings, as Wie did, nearer to the event.
Wie is not the only current top-10 player who won't be at the International Crown. Teen sensation Lydia Ko, whose victory Sunday marked her second of the year, is No. 2 in the world. Suzann Pettersen is No. 4 and Shanshan Feng is No. 8. But New Zealand (Ko), Norway (Pettersen) and China (Feng) did not qualify teams for the event.
China seems to be a rising power and is by far the closest of the three to having the depth necessary to qualify. Behind Feng are four other Chinese women in the top 250 in the world. New Zealand and Norway have just one player in the top 600 behind their two stars.
Pettersen, of course, is eligible for the Solheim Cup and has competed in that seven times. She was a big part of Europe's winning team last August. But unless there's a big surge in New Zealand women's golf, the 17-year-old Ko won't be playing in the LPGA's team competitions.
There is no perfect solution. The United States has so many good players, it will always be a lock to qualify. Wie, 24, will have other chances at the International Crown. But with the event making its debut, Wie's absence will be the most glaring, coming so soon after her triumph at Pinehurst.