JOE TAKES THE HEAT OFF JEEV


Joe Ozaki acted swiftly to ease the pressure on Indian ace Jeev Milkha Singh as he shuffled his pack for Saturday’s Royal Trophy Four-balls.

It was no surprise to see the Asian Captain split up the Singh-Thongchai Jaidee partnership after they were routed 7&5 by Sweden’s Peter Hanson and Fredrik Andersson Hed in the Foursomes.

But Captain Ozaki stressed that was a positive move, designed to take the spotlight off his player, who was clearly rusty after a six week lay-off due to a back injury.

Captain Ozaki explained: “I always intended that the winning pairs should stay the way they did.

“I’ve changed up the other two pairs because I noticed that Thongchai had a lot of Thai supporters and I didn’t want that to add to the pressure that Jeev is under.”

Ozaki hopes those Thai supporters will also help to galvanise his other pairings, after Peter Hanson said it felt like he was playing in front of a home crowd in the Foursomes as Hua Hin’s large Swedish community made themselves heard.

Ozaki added: “I have always felt I get good support and I want the Thai people to get behind the Team and help them to victory.”

Singh will partner Korea’s Kim Kyung-tae – the 2010 Japan Golf Tour Order of Merit winner – against two more Swedes, Henrik Stenson and Johan Edfors.

Thongchai’s new partner will be Yuta Ikeda, winner of eight titles in Japan over the last two years. And the Thai star will be out for revenge, as the opposition is again provided by Hanson and Andersson Hed.

The young guns will square up to each other again, as Ryo Ishikawa and Shunsuke Sonoda bid to repeat their Foursomes victory over Matteo Manassero and Pablo Martin.

But Ishikawa is taking nothing for granted. He commented: “I had the chance to take a good look at Matteo’s game and he has a great game and is an aggressive player. I expect a powerful performance from him in the Four-balls.

Monty kept his pairings unchanged, merely revising the running order so he could be first out, and hopefully be in position to pass on advice to the later pairings.

He said: “There’s no reason to change any of the pairings as I am very happy with the day’s play. Everyone is comfortable with their playing partners, regardless they won or they lost.

“I have changed the sequence because I wanted to go first as the Captain and hopefully – and I say hopefully – my match will end earlier so I can go onto the green to watch the rest of my Team play.

“At two points all there’s a lot to play for in the next two days.

“All things considered, I think with Fredrik Andersson Hed coming in late and myself not having played for quite some time, I think we did quite well today. I was quite happy with the result today to be two-all.

“It’s given us something to work for, and my team has gone to the range now to work on their games, so that hopefully we can take a good lead into the singles. All in all, it’s been a very positive day for Europe, a stiff test here, but still a good result for us to build on.”

Ozaki insisted he was just as happy to be tied going into the second series of matches.

He said: “At first I was a little worried that all the players would not be able to perform very well with it being the first day, and with more pressure than usual.

“But I was very happy with the results. It was more than I expected. Today was a good start for all the players and I expect them to play even better tomorrow and on Sunday.”

The Four-ball session of the Royal Trophy will commence at 11:00am at the magnificent Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin, and matches are expected to end at about 4:30pm.

The staging of the Royal Trophy in the beautiful town of Hua Hin offers an excellent opportunity for golf and sports fans to enjoy the dramatic continental team match play being showcased by the European and Asian players as well as all of the other great attractions of the sublime coastal region – including the world-famous spas and the fantastic beaches.

“We had an excellent day of golf today with very good weather, the Black Mountain golf course in great condition and very strong spectator galleries;” said Lincoln Venancio, Managing Director of the Royal Trophy.

“But tomorrow will be critical for both the European and Asian Teams. To go into the final day with a lead is important and I believe that we will see the two Teams battling hard tomorrow to try to go into the singles with some margin and a lot of confidence;” added Lincoln Venancio.

Tickets for the Royal Trophy can be purchased at the entrance of the Black Mountain Golf Club.

The Royal Trophy is hosted in Thailand under the authority of the Sports Authority of Thailand. The Championship is co-organized by the Sports Authority of Thailand, the Prachuap Khirikhan Province, the Hua Hin Municipality and Entertainment and Sports Co., Ltd. The Matches are promoted internationally by Entertainment Group Limited.

Four-balls draw. 11.05: Noh Seung-yul & Liang Wen-chong v Colin Montgomerie & Rhys Davies; 11.18: Ryo Ishikawa & Shunsuke Sonoda v Matteo Manassero & Pablo Martin; 11.31: Kim Kyung-tae & Jeev Milkha Singh v Johan Edfors & Henrik Stenson; 11.44: Yuta Ikeda & Thongchai Jaidee v Peter Hanson & Fredrik Andersson Hed.

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