U.S. Open

Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)


Asia Takes Commanding Lead

January 09, 2009

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- Asia took a commanding 6½ to 1½ lead over Europe by dominating Saturday's fourball play at the matchplay Royal Trophy.

The Asian pairs won three of four in the fourball and halved the other to take a big lead at the Royal Trophy ahead of Sunday's eight singles matches at Amata Spring Country Club in Thailand's seaside Chonburi province.

"I feel like dancing" said Asia captain Naomichi "Joe" Ozaki before briefly breaking into a jig when speaking to media after the day's play. "I'm very happy with the situation now. But we still don't know what is going to happen tomorrow.

"I will talk to the players in the morning to keep their momentum in the final round. I want the players to play aggressively and play well at the back nine."

Asia had never led at a day's end in two previous editions of the matchplay event, but continued the good form shown in Friday's foursomes.

"We can not stop believing that we can win or there would be no point in going out there tomorrow," Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal said. "We are going to have to do something really special tomorrow, but I have to say that I believe that any of the players in the European team can beat any of the players in the Asian team."

In unsually mild and windy conditions Saturday, Charlie Wi of South Korea and Liang Wenchong of China dominated from start to finish to take the first point for Asia with a 3-and-2 win over English duo Oliver Wilson and Nick Dougherty.

Europe got its only positive result of the day when Soren Hansen sank a pressure putt on the 18th, allowing he and Scotland's Paul Lawrie to salvage half a point against the Japanese pair of Ryo Ishikawa and Toru Taniguchi.

It was less than the Euro duo had expected for much of the round in which Denmark's Hansen's 6-under 66 held off their Japanese rivals, until Ishikawa's birdie at the 16th evened thigns.

Thai pair Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng again proved too strong for Paul McGinley of Ireland and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain, winning 4 and 2.

Hideto Tanihara of Japan and S.K. Ho of South Korea wrapped up the Asian rout with a 2-and-1 victory over Sweden's Niclas Fasth and Johan Edfors.

In an effort to establish some much-needed momentum, Olazabal had assigned his in-form players to the early matches for Sunday's singles.

Hansen will take on Ishikawa in the day's first match, followed by former British Open winner Lawrie against Liang. The final scheduled match, should the contest go that far, would pit Thongchai against McGinley.