Asia claim maiden win in golf’s Royal Trophy

January 11th, 2009 - 9:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, Jan 11 (IANS) Asia claimed golf’s Royal Trophy for the first time after completing a stunning 10-6 triumph over Europe at Amata Spring Country Club Sunday.Thailand’s home hero Prayad Marksaeng and Japan’s Toru Taniguchi delivered the two points required in the singles for an inspired Asia to complete an historic maiden victory in the clash of continents.

Europe, trailing by five points after the foursomes and fourball sessions, struck first blood when former British Open champion Paul Lawrie of Scotland defeated Liang Wen-chong of China in the second tie of the day but the European fightback failed to gather momentum.

Smooth-swinging Prayad outplayed Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal 5&4 to take Asia within the cusp of glory and Taniguchi, Japan’s number one in 2007, earned the winning point when he outclassed Sweden’s Niclas Fasth 7&6, holing a 15-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole to give captain Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki his sweet revenge over an European side led by captain Jose Maria Olazabal.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Ozaki. “When I was here in 2007, I was very nervous as a captain and I didn’t know what to do. As soon as I saw my team members, I felt very comfortable and I was confident we would do well.

“I had a strong intention in my mind. Asia lost the first two matches (in 2006 and 2007) and I really wanted to win this time. I think all my team members felt what I was thinking and they realised how I wanted them to play. This win means a lot to me,” added Ozaki, who was tossed into the lake near the ninth green by his players after the presentation ceremony.

Outstanding performances in the foursomes and fourball sessions during the first two days saw Asia open up a healthy 6 and 1/2 to 1 and 1/2 advantage over the Europeans. Prayad, who alongside countryman Thongchai Jaidee accumulated three wins in as many matches, produced a flawless display to oust Larrazabal, last year’s European rookie of the year.

The Thai earned a morale-boosting half with a 20-foot birdie on the opening hole against the Spaniard and never looked back.

Taniguchi was in total command in the drubbing of Fasth to clinch the winning point for Asia, with five matches still out on the course.

Olazábal congratulated Ozaki’s Asian team for their triumph before hinting that tournament founder and golf great Seve Ballesteros, recovering from brain surgery in Bilbao, would return to reclaim the trophy in 2010.

“My last words are for Seve,” said the Spaniard as he addressed his eight-man team. “He is recovering from some health issues, but even though I’m the captain this year, I might not be the captain next year - and I can assure you he is going to be tougher than I was!”

The 42 year old promised Europe would learn from the loss.

Teenage sensation Ryo Ishikawa earned a half point for Asia in his top match with Dane Soren Hansen while Thongchai won his third straight match this week with a convincing 5&4 defeat of Paul McGinley, handing the Irishman his third loss after entering the week with a proud unbeaten record in the series.

Korea’s Charlie Wi, who lost 1-up to Nick Dougherty of England, was delighted to enjoy a winning debut. “It was really important for the Asian players and the Asian Tours that we defeated Europe. Next year, I’m sure they will have stronger players against us so that they get the Royal Trophy back. Sometimes, the Asian players don’t get enough credit. We had a really strong team here,” said the US-based Wi.

Sunday Singles (Asia names first)
Asia 10 Europe 6
Ryo Ishikawa (Jpn) vs Soren Hansen (Den) All Square; Liang Wen-chong (PRC) lost to Paul Lawrie (Sco) 3&2; Charlie Wi (Kor) lost to Nick Dougherty (Eng) 1-up, Prayad Marksaeng (Tha) beat Pablo Larrazabal (Esp) 5&4; Hideto Tanihara (Tha) lost to Oliver Wilson (Eng) 3&2; SK Ho (Kor) lost to Johan Edfors (Swe) 5&4; Toru Taniguchi (Jpn) beat Niclas Fasth (Swe) 7&6; Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) beat Paul McGinley (Ire) 5&4.?

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