Golf Digest editors picks

Asia Leads Europe 3-1 After Day One

The Asian team is looking for its first win since 2005

January 9, 2009

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- Asia took a 3-1 lead over Europe after Friday's opening day foursomes at the Royal Trophy.

In the third staging of the matchplay event, it was the first time Asia had led Europe after the opening day.

"I feel like I'm dreaming now, especially after my past experience at the Royal Trophy," said Asia captain Naomichi "Joe" Ozaki.

Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal was disappointed but not panicked by Friday's setbacks, electing to retain the same pairings for Saturday's fourball, as did Asia.

"The boys know that they didn't play up to the standards that we are used to seeing from them today and they face a very tough challenge," Olazabal said.

"I have said all along this week that we have great respect for the Asian team, but we believe that we can win here and tomorrow we are going to have to play our guts out."

Europe began strongly at the Amata Spring Country Club, when its opening pair of Soren Hansen of Denmark and Scotland's Paul Lawrie came from a hole down to beat Japanese pair Ryo Ishikawa and Toru Taniguchi 2 and 1. The Europeans drew even at the 15th and surged ahead with wins on the 16th and 17th.

Asia squared it 1-1 when the local Thai pair of Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng convincingly beat Niclas Fasth and Johan Edfors of Sweden 5 and 4. It was the last foursome to tee off but the second completed result.

"We got along very well. If one of us got into trouble, the other would fix the situation," Jaidee said. "We took control after the sixth hole and were sure of winning after 11 holes."

"Europe were up in all matches in the early stage and we said let's try and fight for Asia," said Marksaeng, who was making his first Royal Trophy appearance.

Charlie Wi of South Korea and Liang Wenchong of China added the second point for Asia with a two up win over Paul McGinley of Ireland and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain. Wi and Liang were three holes down early but Europe's double bogey on the 11th helped Asia pull even on the 16th before dominating the last two holes.

The European pair found the water then the sand on the final hole, tarnishing McGinley's perfect record from two previous Royal Trophy appearances.

"We were three down really quickly and we knew that we had to fight really hard to earn half a point," Wi said.

"We feel great that we pulled it off."

Hideto Tanihara of Japan and S.K. Ho of South Korea wrapped up the day with a one up win over the English pair of Oliver Wilson and Nick Dougherty. The Asian pair got a lucky break on the 17th when the ball rebounded off an umbrella too close to the pin, enabling them to save par.

After Saturday's fourballs, singles will be played Sunday.

Asia is chasing its first win over Europe after losing both the 2006 and 2007 tournaments. The even was canceled in 2008.

Around The Web
Subscribe to Golf Digest
Subscribe today