OZAKI HAILS HIS HEROES AS THE PRIDE OF ASIA


Joe Ozaki was the proudest man in Asia as he led his Team to the brink of a famous Royal Trophy triumph with a stunning clean sweep in the Four-ball matches.

With Asia claiming maximum points on day two – the first time any Team has won every match in a Royal Trophy session – Captain Ozaki’s Team, will take a 6-2 lead into the Singles.

That means they require just two and a half points from the eight Singles matches to reclaim the Royal Trophy, after winning the Competition in 2009 and being edged out by a single point last year.

Those matches were proof that Asia had become a truly competitive force in this contest – their incredible Four-ball success suggests the balance of power may even have tilted in their direction.

Captain Ozaki commented: “I am very proud of my Asian Team. Everybody played to their full potential today, and I am very proud to see Jeev Milkha Singh playing better, and back up to his usual level of play.

His opposite number, Colin Montgomerie seemed almost shell-shocked as he reflected on one of the most damaging days European golf has ever been forced to endure.

He said: “First and foremost, we have to give credit to the Asian Team for their outstanding performance today.

“All eight of their players performed magnificently today, and after the first day’s play I am delighted on a personal level for my close friend Jeev Milkha Singh. And I would like to stress that we have given one hundred per cent, but we were beaten by a better team.”

Monty was the first to feel the force of the Asian onslaught, as he and partner Rhys Davies – widely acknowledged as the finest putter in world golf – were routed 5&4 by Liang Wen-chong and Noh Seung-yul.

Montgomerie and Davies failed to win a single hole, and were just two under par for the 14 holes completed – while their opponents were an impressive seven under.

Monty admitted: “Never mind Rhys, none of the European putting was up to world class standards. But I am sure he will perform well in the Singles, as we all have to do. But if we play well, we still have a chance.”

It was the same story in every one of the four matches, with the Asian players holing far more putts than their opponents, either for birdies or to put the pressure on their opponents when they were closer to the hole.

No-one had a hotter putter than Ryo Ishikawa, who has finally shown that all the hype surrounding him is fully justified.

Ishikawa, 19, has looked comfortable and relaxed playing alongside 21 year old Shunsuke Sonoda, his childhood friend and clearly a very accomplished golfer in his own right.

They have won both of their clashes with Europe’s own young guns – 17 year old Italian sensation Matteo Manassero and Spanish ace Pablo Martin, the ‘old man’ of the quartet at just 24.

Ishikawa kept aiming dagger thrust into the hearts of the Latin duo, sinking an outrageous forty footer at the fifth, another monster effort at the tenth, and then finishing them off with another long birdie putt on the 16th.

Singh was a different man after his opening day struggles, but he was the first to hand most of the credit for their final hole victory over Swedish bombers Henrik Stenson and Johan Edfors to his partner, Japan Golf Tour Order of Merit winner Kim Kyung-tae.

Singh said: “My partner played great and made some clutch putts to win holes, and I was happy that I managed to help out on a few holes. Then he closed it out brilliantly with a great bunker shot on the last.”

Kim contributed crucial wins at the fourth and seventh holes with superbly-constructed birdies, and they proved decisive after Johan Edfors missed a three-footer at the 17th to level the match, after it broke far more than he expected.

But none of the Asian parings was more impressive than Yuta Ikeda – the most prolific winner on the Japan Golf Tour in the past two years with eight victories – and local hero Thongchai Jaidee.

They had to produce great golf to subdue battling Swedes Peter Hanson and Fredrik Andersson Hed – and that is just what they did, with Ikeda firing a dazzling eight birdies, including a streak of seven in nine holes.

The crowds were much larger than on the first day, and Thongchai did not disappoint the packed galleries at the Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin.

He bagged six birdies, holing out three times from just off the greens, including an outrageous chip-in at the 13th which earned the biggest cheer of the Competition so far.

But there will be an even bigger one if – or should that be when? – Asia completes their second Royal Trophy victory.

“We are expecting a great day of golf tomorrow;” said Royal Trophy Managing Director, Lincoln Venancio.

“The Asian Team had a fantastic day today and the Europeans will have to do something special tomorrow in order to have a chance to retain stewardship of the Royal Trophy;” added Lincoln Venancio.

“But one can never write off the Europeans. They have made tremendous recoveries in team golf in the past and it will be up to how these sixteen great golfers perform tomorrow. It promises to be a very interesting day;” concluded Lincoln Venancio.

The Royal Trophy is hosted by the Royal Thai Government; organized by the Sports Authority of Thailand in conjunction with the Prachuap Khirikhan Province and the Hua Hin Municipality; and is promoted internationally by Entertainment Group Limited.

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