Europe Leads Asia at Royal Trophy

By Sports NetworkJanuary 7, 2006, 5:00 pm
European TourBANGKOK, Thailand -- Bolstered by a quartet of multiple-point winners, Europe built a 6-2 lead over Asia after the first day of The Royal Trophy on Saturday.
The Irish team of Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell won both of their matches to lead the European charge at this inaugural event, while Thomas Bjorn and Henrik Stenson also earned two points apiece.
McGinley and McDowell defeated Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa 4 and 3 in the morning foursomes matches for the first point ever awarded at The Royal Trophy, then went on to beat Hur Suk-ho and Lian-Wei Zhang 2 and 1 in afternoon foursomes.
Bjorn and Stenson picked up their first point when they rallied for a 1-up victory over Yasuharo Imano and Zhang in the foursomes after falling 1-down with three holes to play.
Bjorn later teamed with Ian Woosnam for a 3 and 2 victory over Thaworn Wiratchant and Thongchai Jaidee in the fourball matches, this after the all- Thai team had handed Woosnam and fellow European captain's pick Nick Faldo a stunning 6 and 5 defeat in foursomes.
Faldo also earned some measure of revenge by combining with Stenson for a 1-up victory over Imano and Keiichiro Fukabori in the afternoon at Amata Spring Country Club.
Asia claimed its second point with Atwal and Randhawa's 1-up win over David Howell and Kenneth Ferrie in their fourball match. Howell and Ferrie had earlier defeated Ho and Fukabori 2-up in foursomes.
Ignoring for a moment the strong performance of McGinley and McDowell, the turning point on Saturday was probably the foursomes win by Bjorn and Stenson.
Being the last match to finish in the morning session, the European win meant an early 3-1 lead instead of a 2-2 tie. Bjorn and Stenson won the 16th and 17th holes to take their 1-up lead and then tied the 18th to finish off the match.
'It was an important result,' acknowledged Bjorn. 'There is a big difference between 2-2 and 3-1.'
Asian captain Masahiro Kuramoto, a 30-time winner on the Japan Tour, called the difference 'very minor' and stood confident that his team could reverse the score in the afternoon matches. But he was not made prescient.
European captain Seve Ballesteros stuck with the strong pairing of McGinley and McDowell in the afternoon session, and watched as they delivered their second convincing win of the first day even as Howell and Ferrie fell behind in the first match out.
'I think it has been a wonderful day,' Ballesteros gushed. '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.'
The biggest boost for the Asians on Day 1 came from Wiratchant and Jaidee, who made eight straight putts during one stretch in their morning win over 1991 Ryder Cup teammates Faldo and Woosnam.
'If they missed a couple and we holed a couple it would have been a different game, but we couldn't get it together,' Woosnam said of the match.
The Royal Trophy will finish with eight singles matches on Sunday. Europe needs just 2 1/2 points to win.
'Everybody played well and hopefully tomorrow will be another day,' said Kuramoto. 'I have spoken to all my players and whoever they play against, to go out and beat them.'
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