Two Members of the last European Ryder Cup Team from Valhalla and three former Ryder Cup players will bid to bring their considerable match play skills to bear this week when they tee up in The Royal Trophy at Amata Spring Country Club in Bangkok, Thailand.
Denmark’s Søren Hansen and England’s Oliver Wilson will hope to reproduce their Valhalla form when they head to the Thai capital, whilst Sweden’s Niclas Fasth, Scotland’s Paul Lawrie and Ireland’s Paul McGinley will also be able to draw on their collective Ryder Cup experiences as they seek to continue Europe’s winning streak in this unique event.
The team will be completed by European Tour champions Nick Dougherty of England, Sweden’s Johan Edfors, and European Tour Rookie of the Year, Pablo Larrazabal of Spain.
The octet will be captained by Spain’s José Maria Olazábal in the absence of his compatriot Seve Ballesteros, who is recovering from a brain tumour.
Olazábal, who was Faldo’s Vice Captain in The Ryder Cup, said: “I’m truly honoured to have been appointed by Seve to take such an important responsibility, and I will do my best to deliver a win for my great friend and for Europe. I plan to stay in contact with Seve throughout the week and to work with him as a partner – as we did on the golf course for so many years in The Ryder Cup.”
For the second time, the Asian Team will be led by Japanese golfing great Naomichi “Joe” Ozaki.
His line-up includes Prayad Marksaeng and dual Asian Tour Order of Merit Number One, Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand; Charlie Wi and S.K. Ho of Korea; 2007 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Liang Wen-chong of China; dual Japan Tour Order of Merit winner Toru Taniguchi and his fellow Japanese Hideto Tanihara and 17 year old sensation Ryo Ishikawa.
Europe have won the last two tournaments, with both victories overseen by Ballesteros, who first came up with the concept of pitching the cream of European golf against Asia’s finest in a team event.
Three-time Ryder Cup winner McGinley was a leading player in both victorious sides, whilst the Swedish pair of Edfors and Fasth also tasted success in 2007.
Indeed, Edfors boasts a 100 per cent record in the contest, having won all three of his matches in Europe’s 12½-3½ triumph.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to playing The Royal Trophy again. I think Amata Spring Country Club is an excellent match play venue as it encourages, and rewards, aggressive golf. I like to give the ball a lash, and the galleries seemed to enjoy watching my attacking brand of golf the last time I played.
“I really enjoy the overall format as well, and it’s a wonderful way to start a new golfing year. Obviously I have very happy memories of the 2007 tournament, and I will be looking to recapture that form this time around.”
The other five members of the European Team will be making their debuts in the annual event, which was postponed last January when Thailand entered a period of mourning after the death of Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana.
The format will again be the same, with four foursomes matches played on the opening day of the competition, the two Teams battling it out in four fourball matches on day two, and the two Continents facing off in eight singles matches on the final day.
The winning Team will be presented with the 16 kilogram, solid silver Royal Trophy, which was donated by His Majesty the King of Thailand.