Asian team ready for Europe at Royal Trophy

Asian team ready for Europe at Royal Trophy

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Charlie Wi and the rest of the Asia team are confident they can overcome a lack of experience against Europe in the Royal Trophy.

Europe has won both previous editions of the match-play event, and has five players on its eight-member team with experience in the Ryder Cup – not that it matters much to Wi.

“Even the guys who weren’t involved in those first two matches, which is the majority of us, are aware that Asia did not perform as well as we should have,” Wi said, “and that is a big motivation for us.”

The tournament begins Friday at the Amata Springs Country Club in Thailand’s seaside Chonburi province.

“I have been encouraged by just how positive the mood is in the team room,” Wi said. “The talk is not about how strong or how experienced the Europeans are at match play, but how to make sure we get the best out of our team – which will hopefully be enough for us to shade it.”

Sweden’s Niclas Fasth is one of the Europeans with Ryder Cup experience and said that could prove decisive during the foursomes on Friday, four-ball on Saturday and singles on Sunday.

“The Ryder Cup brings out the best of players and it can make a bit of a difference in a team competition,” Fasth said.

In Friday’s first foursomes match, 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa and Japanese compatriot Toru Taniguchi will face Scotland’s Paul Lawrie and Dane Soren Hansen.

That will be followed by the Asia pairing of Wi and China’s Liang Wenchong against Ireland’s Paul McGinley and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain.

The all-English duo of Nick Dougherty and Oliver Wilson will square off against South Korea’s S.K. Ho and Japan’s Hideto Tanihara in the third foursomes, while the final match will feature the Thai pairing of Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng against Fasth and fellow Swede Johan Edfors.

Lawrie is the only major winner among the 16 players.

Asia captain Naomichi “Joe” Ozaki was also captain for the 2007 event when Europe trounced Asia 12 1/2 to 3 1/2 and was aiming for much better when his side takes on a European team captained by Spaniard Jose-Maria Olazabal, a replacement for Seve Ballesteros.

“I want to beat Olazabal’s team very badly, but it will be difficult as Asian players are still not used to match-play formats,” Ozaki said. “My players need to show guts and fighting spirit and beat the guys in front of them.”

Olazabal took over as captain after Ballesteros was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year that required several operations. He was released from a hospital Dec. 9 and returned home to northern Spain, where he began chemotherapy treatment.

If Ozaki has any concern about his team’s confidence, he ought to listen to Wi.

“We have golfers who have been in tremendous form in the past year, and it has been impressive to see how well the players have come together in practice,” Wi said. “We expect it to be incredibly tight this time, but if I had to put a figure on it, I would say the odds going in are probably about 55-45 in our favor.”

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