An inspired Europe soared in the wind to open up a commanding four point lead over Asia at the The Royal Trophy after dominating the foursomes and fourball matches to lead 6-2 at the spectacular Amata Spring Country Club, Bangkok, Thailand.
The Irish pairing of Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell struck first blood for Europe in the morning by winning the first point in the foursomes matches and went on to win their afternoon fourball match against SK Ho of Korea and China’s Zhang Lian-wei. Dane Thomas Björn and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson also starred for Europe with a unbeaten records.
After winning the foursomes session in the morning 3-1, Europe kept the pressure on with the in-form Björn and Woosnam delivering the first fourball victory for their team in the afternoon, beating Jaidee and Wiratchant 3 & 2. Björn was in mesmerising form, shooting seven birdies and earned the admiration of Woosnam, who will captain Europe in The Ryder Cup in September.
Woosnam enthused: "Thomas played great and I just came in on a couple of holes. It's looking good for the singles but we will need a couple of points start over Asia."
In the top match David Howell and Kenneth Ferrie were always staring defeat in the face against the Indian pair of Arjun Atwal and Thaworn Wiratchant but somehow managed to claw their way back from three down to take the match down the last. Ferrie hit a great approach to ten feet but his birdie putt to halve the match failed to drop and the Asian’s secured their only point of the afternoon.
But Europe repeated their 3-1 scoreline of the morning as Nick Faldo and Henrik Stenson held off a spirited fightback from the Japanese pair of Keiichiro Fukabori and Yasuharu Imano with a one hole victory in the final group.
“It was great to get the competitive juices going again,” said Faldo after the narrow victory. “Henrik was very impressive and I managed to come in with a few birdies over the last few holes. I enjoyed it out there.”
With eight singles to play, Europe need only two and a half points to fly home with the impressive Royal Trophy, which was presented by his majesty, the King of Thailand.
“I think it has been a wonderful day,” said Ballesteros, looking to captain the European team to victory in The Royal Trophy as he has done in The Ryder Cup and the Seve Trophy. “Today was very much on the European team side but it was a great performance from the Asian team and we just had a little more luck on the greens. Probably the lack of experience from the Asian team might have been the difference.”
Asian team captain Masahiro Kuramoto faces an uphill struggle but remained upbeat despite the daunting task facing his team in the eight singles.
After 3-1 in the morning I felt I wanted three points in the afternoon which is why I made some changes. But we only got two points after the first day. But everybody played well and hopefully tomorrow will be another day. I have spoken to all my player and whoever they play against, to go out and beat them.”
ASIA 2 EUROPE 6
Saturday Morning (Foursomes) Asia 1 Europe 3
SK Ho (Kor) & Keiichiro Fukabori (Jpn) lost to David Howell (Eng) & Kenneth Ferrie (Eng) 2-up
Arjun Atwal (Ind) & Jyoti Randhawa (Ind) lost to Paul McGinley (Ire) & Graeme McDowell (Nir) 4&3
Yasuharu Imano (Jpn) & Zhang Lian-wei (Prc) lost to Thomas Bjorn (Den) & Henrik Stenson (Swe) 1-up
Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha) & Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) bt Nick Faldo (Eng) & Ian Woosnam (Wal) 6&5
Saturday Afternoon (Fourball) Asia 1 Europe 3
Arjun Atwal (Ind) & Jyoti Randhawa (Ind) beat David Howell (Eng) & Kenneth Ferrie (Eng) 1-up
SK Ho (Kor) & Zhang Lian-wei (Prc) lost to Graeme McDowell (Nir) & Paul McGinley (Ire) 2 & 1
Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha) & Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) lost to Thomas Bjorn (Den) & Ian Woosnam (Wal) 3 & 2
Keiichiro Fukabori (Jpn) & Yasuharu Imano lost to Nick Faldo (Eng) & Henrik Stenson (Swe) 1-up
Sunday Singles Draw
11.10am: Yasuharo Imano (Jpn) Vs David Howell (Eng)
11.20am: Zhang Lian-wei (Prc) Vs Paul McGinley (Ire)
11.30am: Jyoti Randhawa (Ind) Vs Graeme McDowell (Nir)
11.40am: Arjun Atwal (Ind) Vs Nick Faldo (Eng)
11.50am: Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha) Vs Ian Woosnam (Wal)
12pm: SK Ho (Kor) Vs Kenneth Ferrie (Eng)
12.10pm: Keiichiro Fukabori (Jpn) Vs Thomas Bjorn (Den)
12.20pm: Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) Vs Henrik Stenson (Swe)
Europe take a commanding four point lead over Asia into the final day singles after winning both sessions on the opening day of the inaugural Royal Trophy at Amata Spring Country Club, Bangkok, Thailand.