A final hole victory by the Scandinavian pairing of Thomas Björn and Henrik Stenson gave Europe a 3-1 lead over Asia after the opening foursomes session of The Royal Trophy at Amata Spring Country Club, Bangkok, Thailand.
Björn and Stenson, unbeaten in three matches together in last year’s Seve Trophy, kept the streak going after fighting back from one down with three to play against Yasuharu Imano and Zhang Lian Wei to win the tie on the 18th hole.
"It was a good game all the way round," said Björn. "There weren’t too many poor shots. Imano played well and we just stuck in there. We had a feeling that if we just stuck in there we knew that the last few holes were difficult and just kept hitting decent shots. It was an important result. There is a big difference between 2-2 and 3-1."
The Irish partnership of Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell put the first point on the board in the historic match between Europe and Asia with a convincing 4 and 3 win over the strong Indian pairing of Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa.
The English duo of David Howell and Kenneth Ferrie raced to three up after three with successive opening birdies. S K Ho of Korea and Japan’s Keiichiro Fukabori managed to hang on but the Europeans always had the upper hand in the top match, eventually claiming a point with a two hole victory on the final green.
But the shock result was the 6 and 5 thumping of Major Champions Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam by the home favourites Thaworn Wiratchant and Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand. The Asian team’s top two players destroyed the legendary Ryder Cup pairing on the greens to secure Asia’s only point of the morning session.
“We were just shocking on the greens really,” said Woosnam. “We didn’t play that badly but they putted better than us. We were inside them the first few holes but they had eight single putts in as many holes. If they missed a couple and we holed a couple it would have been a different game but we couldn’t get it together.”
Four birdies on the front nine and a series of single putts by the Thai pair put them firmly in control as Faldo and Woosnam, reunited for the first time since the 1991 Ryder Cup, struggled to find their form.
“On the front nine we only had one hole with a two putt,” said Jaidee. “It was good to put up a point for Asia. There were a lot of Thai people out there and it helped our game.”
Despite the defeat of one of his favoured pairings, European captain Seve Ballesteros was delighted with his team’s performance, particularly with Björn and Stenson securing a 3-1 lead.
“The last match was very close and the last few holes on this golf course are very difficult,” said Ballesteros. “We know that foursomes is a very difficult format. But Henrik and Thomas managed to win the 16th and 17th to be one up and then it was very dramatic on the 18th because of great play by the Asians. It was a great second shot to a very tough pin position to give themselves a chance of a half. But I’m pleased we managed to edge in front.”
Asian captain Masahiro Kuramoto, however, remained optimistic of reversing the score in the afternoon fourball session.
“We’re 3-1 down but it can change really easily,” he said. “It could have been 2-2. The difference is very minor. I am of course still very positive and confident we can reverse the scoreline. I will tell our players that it was close on the morning and if we put our minds together we can turn it around.”