BJORN BOOSTS EUROPEAN CHALLENGE


Ryder Cup winner Thomas Bjorn has given Europe’s Royal Trophy challenge a major lift with his inclusion in the team to face Asia in next month’s Thailand showpiece.

The Danish ace is joined by three other European Tour stars – England’s Kenneth Ferrie, Swede Henrik Stenson and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland – in the eight-man lineup finalised by non-playing captain Seve Ballesteros.

David Howell, Paul McGinley, Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam had already been unveiled as the first four European players.

Bjorn, winner of eight European Tour titles and a three-time runner-up in Majors, made his Ryder Cup debut in 1997 and featured again in 2002 when he played a significant role in Europe’s win at the Belfry in England.

“Thomas is a fantastic addition to our squad for the Royal Trophy,” said Seve Ballesteros. “He’s a proven winner against some of the world’s top players and he has vital matchplay experience.”

“I’m also delighted to include Kenneth, Henrik and Graeme, three of the brightest talents on the European Tour. In all, we are taking eight truly outstanding golfers to Thailand and I’m sure Europe will provide Asia with a very strong challenge in the inaugural Royal Trophy.”

“Ferrie made a huge impression in 2005, winning the European Open at the K Club in Ireland for his second career title. Stenson and McDowell are also two-time winners on the European Tour.”

The European challenge will be spearheaded by England’s Howell, who held off Tiger Woods to win last month’s HSBC Champions Tournament in Shanghai, and Irishman McGinley, Europe’s 2002 Ryder Cup hero and winner of the European Tour’s season-ending Volvo Masters in October.

England’s Faldo, a six-time Major winner, and Welshman Woosnam, the 1991 Masters champion, are Ballesteros’ choice as captain’s picks.

The first-ever team golf competition played between Asia and Europe will take place at Amata Spring Country Club, Bangkok, from January 5-8, 2006. Each team will be comprised of eight players, led by a non-playing captain, competing in a series of 16 matches involving foursomes, four-ball and singles. The event has been sanctioned by the Asian, Japan and European Tours.

“This is an extremely strong European lineup,” said Lincoln Venancio, managing director of the Royal Trophy.

“All eight players have won European Tour titles and, in choosing Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam as his captain’s picks, Seve has gone for Ryder Cup experience, which will be vital in front of the large galleries we are expecting at Amata Spring;” added Lincoln Venancio.

“It’s clear that this European team will be very strong and competitive. I think we’re in for a fantastic first Royal Trophy;” concluded Venancio.

Asian captain Masahiro Kuramoto has already named a talent-packed lineup for the showpiece tournament.

Spearheading the home team’s challenge will be the top three finishers on the Asian Tour Order of Merit – Thai duo Thaworn Wiratchant and Thongchai Jaidee and India’s Jyoti Randhawa. They are backed up by three of the top four on the Japan Golf Tour’s 2005 money list – Japanese pair Yasuharu Imano and Keiichiro Fukabori and Korea’s SK Ho.

The Asian squad is completed by Arjun Atwal of India and China’s Zhang Lian Wei, both selected by Japanese golfing legend Kuramoto as his captain’s picks.

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