Asia on verge of historic win in Royal Trophy

January 10th, 2009 - 8:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, Jan 10 (IANS) A spirited Asian team was on the threshold of lifting the Royal Trophy golf title for the first time after dominating Europe in the four-ball session to lead the clash of continents by a convincing six-and-a-half points to one-and-a-half points Saturday.Taking a 3-1 lead after Friday’s foursomes, Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki’s men maintained their momentum at Amata Spring Country Club by winning three of the four matches and sharing the spoils in the top tie.

Asia, cheered by a large and partisan gallery, need only two points from eight singles matches on Sunday to lift the Royal Trophy for the first time after losing the first two editions in 2006 and 2007.

“As a captain, I’m happy and honoured that my players have in their minds the intention to win the Royal Trophy. I’m happy with the situation which I’m facing right now, especially the big margin over Europe,” said Ozaki.

Spaniard great Jose Maria Olazabal, standing in as captain of the European team in the absence of tournament founder and countryman Seve Ballesteros, conceded that the holders have an uphill task in overcoming Asia’s big lead.

“We have a tough task ahead of us. The Asian Team played really well and made a lot of putts today, so we need to get out there and get a lot of blue numbers on the board as quickly as possible in the singles,” said Olazabal.

Such was Asia’s superb performance that they never trailed the Europeans in the bottom three matches.

South Korean Charlie Wi and Liang Wen-chong of China maintained their winning combination with a convincing three and two win over English pair Nick Dougherty and Oliver Wilson to deliver Asia’s first point of the day.

Japanese teenage sensation Ryo Ishikawa and Toru Taniguchi holed several big putts to square the top match with Soren Hansen of Denmark and Scotsman Paul Lawrie, with Taniguchi draining a 10-foot birdie for the half point.

Local heroes Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng were always in control against Pablo Larrazabal of Spain and Ireland’s Paul McGinley, cruising to a four and two victory before South Korea’s S.K. Ho and Japan’s Hideto Tanihara completed Asia’s strong performance with a three and one triumph over Swedes Niclas Fasth and Johan Edfors.

Captain Ozaki opted to send Ishikawa as the first man out for Sunday’s singles and paid tribute to the young star’s contribution to the team. “The presence of Ishikawa gave the team momentum and spirit,” said Ozaki, a winner of over 30 tournaments in Japan.

Playing in the anchor match for Asia, Jaidee , a two-time Asian Tour No.1, warned that the home team should not get complacent. “The big crowds have certainly helped the team but we can’t predict what will happen tomorrow. There is still work to be done to ensure the win,” he said.

Saturday Fourball results (Asia names first): Ryo Ishikawa (Jpn) and Toru Taniguchi (Jpn) vs Soren Hansen (Den) and Paul Lawrie (Sco) All Square; Charlie Wi (Kor) and Liang Wen-chong (PRC) beat Nick Dougherty (Eng) and Oliver Wilson (Eng) 3 & 2; Hideto Tanihara (Jpn) and S.K. Ho (Kor) beat Niclas Fasth (Swe) and Johan Edfors (Swe); 2 & 1; Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) and Prayad Marksaeng (Tha) beat Pablo Larrazabal (Esp) and Paul McGinley (Ire) 4 & 2

Friday Foursomes results: Ryo Ishikawa (Jpn) and Toru Taniguchi (Jpn) lost to Paul Lawrie (Sco) and Soren Hansen (Den) 2 & 1; Charlie Wi (Kor) and Liang Wen-chong (PRC) beat Paul McGinley (Ire) and Pablo Larrazabal (Esp) 2-up; Hideto Tanihara (Jpn) and S.K. Ho (Kor) beat Nick Dougherty (Eng) and Oliver Wilson (Eng) 1-up; Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) and Prayad Marksaeng (Tha) beat Niclas Fasth (Swe) and Johan Edfors (Swe) 5 & 4.

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