MONTY’S MAGIC MOMENT KEEPS IT ALL SQUARE


Colin Montgomerie led from the front with a moment of vintage brilliance as Asia and Europe shared the honours on the first day of the Royal Trophy.

The teams finished level at two points apiece after the opening series of Foursomes matches, but only after European player-Captain Mongomerie’s stunning shot at the 17th halted a spirited Asian fightback.

Monty and Welsh ace Rhys Davies seemed to be cruising towards victory in their clash with Yuta Ikeda and Kim Kyung-tae when they found themselves two up with four to play.

But a careless European bogey on the 15th gave their opponents a glimmer of hope – and it looked like they would take full advantage when Ikeda made the 315 yard carry across water at the 17th, to finish just short of the green, while Davies was forced to lay up short of the hazard.

But Montgomerie conjured up a brilliant approach shot which spun back to within four feet of the flag, and the pressure was suddenly back on the Asian duo.

It proved too much for Kim, who duffed his chip, and when the Asian pair failed with a par putt from just outside Monty’s ball they had no option but to concede the match, losing 2&1.

Monty commented: “That was a very important point for us. Asia had already won two of the other three matches, and we could not afford to let that one slip away.

“It felt good to see that approach shot finish so close – Rhys Davies rarely misses from anywhere with the putter, and certainly not from four feet !

“Our birdie there meant we went in at two-all, and that is a good result because, as I predicted, this is going to be an extremely tight match.”

Europe’s other point was provided by the Swedish duo of Peter Hanson and Fredrik Andersson Hed, who simply blew Jeev Milkha Singh and Thongchai Jaidee away as they romped to a 7&5 victory.

They were helped by the fact that both Asian players were well below their best – particularly Singh, whose fitness was in doubt right up until the day before the match after he was laid up for five weeks with a back injury.

He insisted he was ready to take his place in the Asian Team, but his lack of practice over the last few weeks proved a serious handicap.

Asian Captain Joe Ozaki admitted: “Jeev will not be happy with how he played today. He must be disappointed, but I am sure he will bounce back tomorrow.

“He took a long time to determine whether he was fit enough to play, and after a practice round and playing in the Pro-Am he felt he was ready to go. Perhaps he was not one hundred per cent straight away, but he is a great player and he will soon be back on track.”

Hanson, a member of Europe’s triumphant European Team in October, had plenty of sympathy for his opponent.

He commented: “Golf can be a strange game. I remember how good I felt after beating Ryo Ishikawa in the Singles here last year – and it was exactly the opposite when Phil Mickelson basically destroyed me in the Singles at the Ryder Cup.

“It can change so quickly, and he will probably come out and play some great golf tomorrow.”

Hanson and Andersson Hed rubbed it in with some great golf of their own – especially on the seventh, where Hanson holed a bunker shot for an outrageous birdie, and on the 10th, where his partner holed a monster putt for another win.

The other Swedish duo, Henrik Stenson and Johan Edfors, had been identified as Europe ‘s strongest pairing by Asian Captain Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki.

But the China-Korea combination of Liang Wen-chong and Noh Seung-yul powered to an impressive 3&2 victory over a pairing who had swept all before them when they last teamed up for Europe in the second edition of the Royal Trophy.

Liang and Noh birdied four of the first seven holes, and calmly resisted everything the big-hitting Swedes threw at them over the remaining holes.

Noh, who became the Asian Tour’s youngest Order of Merit champion in 2010 at just 19, revealed he had an unusual preparation for his Royal Trophy debut.

He explained: “I had laser eye surgery last month, so after that it was a few weeks’ rest, and only one week practice for this Competition.”

It was the Europeans who were rubbing their eyes as he and Liang combined superbly to give Asia the best possible start in the first match out.

The battle between the Royal Trophy’s big guns did not quite provide the expected fireworks, as Ryo Ishikawa and Shunsuke Sonoda beat Matteo Mannassero and Pablo Martin 3&2.

But Ishikawa did produce the shot of the day on the par five sixth hole. He blasted the ball from a fairway bunker over the water and just short of the green, after Martin had laid up from the same spot.

Sonoda’s sublime chip set up a crucial winning birdie, and victory clearly meant a lot to two young players who have been friends since school days, and know each other’s game inside out.

Ishikawa remarked: “I had some trouble with my tee shots today, but we were good around the greens and my partner helped me a lot.”

The second day of Championship will feature the Foursomes matches and promises to deliver a fantastic day of golf and another very competitive encounter between Asia and Europe. Sports fans are encouraged to attend the fifth edition of the Royal Trophy, witness history being made on the golf course and enjoy the various attractions of the beautiful coastal town of Hua Hin – including the beach and the suberb spas.

“This was a fantastic opening day for the Fifth Edition of the Royal Trophy. The foursomes format is always very interesting and features a high degree of unpredictability;” said Lincoln Venancio, Managing Director of the Royal Trophy.

“We are confident that tomorrow will be another great day for golf and a very critical day as both Teams will certainly be aiming to start the final day of singles with a lead;” concluded Lincoln Venancio.

Tickets for the Royal Trophy are available at Thai Baht 1,000 per day and can be purchased at the entrance of the magnificent Black Mountain Golf Club. Various hotels and resorts in the Hua Hin area are offering special packages which include accommodation and admission to the Tournament.

The Foursomes Matches to be played on Saturday will start at 11:00am and are expected to conclude at about 4:30pm.

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

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