Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki is delighted to have Asia’s first Major champion, Korean star Y.E. Yang in his team for the sixth edition of the Royal trophy.

As he surveyed his powerful line-up to take on Europe at The Empire Hotel & Country Club in the Sultanate of Brunei, the Asian Captain concluded he probably has the Continent’s next Major winner in his team too.

Ozaki, returning as Captain for the fifth time, believes this is the strongest team yet assembled under the Asian banner. And it is hard to argue with that view.

The Japanese golfing legend commented: “I do think this is the most formidable team we have put together so far. It is a potent blend of experienced golfers, and others with truly enormous potential.

“It is also representative of how the standards are rising fast throughout the whole of Asia, with three players from Korea, two from Japan, and one each from China, India, and Thailand.

“Of course, Y.E. Yang is a marquee name as Asia’s first Major champion, after his wonderful achievement in becoming the first player to deny Tiger Woods a victory after he held the lead through 54 holes.

“But the more I look at my team, the more convinced I am that Asia’s next Major winner could emerge from this group.

“Yang is the first to acknowledge that his decision to take on a truly global schedule played a huge part in his 2009 US PGA Championship victory. He began his winning ways on the Japan Golf Tour and went on to become a member of the European Tour and the PGA Tour in America, while also maintaining a busy schedule in Asia.

“Jeev Milkha Singh, another player I am delighted to welcome for this sixth edition of the Royal Trophy, has also won tournaments all over the world, including some of the biggest events in the Japan, European and Asian Tours.

“So I am hugely encouraged that other players in this Asian line-up, such as Ryo Ishikawa, K.T. Kim, and Bae Sang-moon are already gaining plenty of global experience after enjoying great success in this part of the golfing world.

“I am sure the other less experienced players in our Team – Wu Ashun of China, Yoshinori Fujimoto of Japan, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand – will follow that example after their success here in the past couple of years.

“The more experience our top players can accumulate of playing in different countries and different the conditions, the better their chances will become of emulating Yang’s glorious achievement.”

The Royal Trophy will provide an early taste of major ultra high pressure international competition for the likes of Wu, Fujimoto, and Aphibarnrat, although their recent exploits suggest they are more than ready to take that step up.

Wu, 27 years old, became the first Chinese golfer to win a tournament on the Japan Golf Tour earlier this year, while 23 year old Fujimoto captured one of the Japan Golf Tour’s most coveted titles – the Tour Championship.

Aphibarnrat, also 23, has been hailed as a future superstar since winning two Junior World Championship titles as a teenager, and has confirmed that promise with victory at the 2011 SAIL Open.

It is hard to believe Ishikawa, 21, remains the youngest member of the Asian Team, as he has already packed so much into his short career.

The Japanese sensation was the youngest player to win a tournament on any professional Tour when he triumphed at the 2007 Munsingwear Open KSB Cup as a 15 year old amateur, and after finishing at the top of the 2009 Japan Golf Tour Order of Merit he shot an incredible 58 to win another Tour title at the Nagoya Golf Club in Aichi.

And he proved he is in prime form for his fourth Royal Trophy appearance by landing the Taiheyo Masters title for the second time only a few weeks ago.

The two players who succeeded Ishikawa as Japan’s Order of Merit champions – Korean stars K.T. Kim and Bae Sang-moon – will join him in doing battle with Europe from December 14-16 at The Empire Hotel & Country Club.

K.T. Kim, who made his Royal Trophy debut last year, has qualified for the last ten Major championships and continued his winning run on the Japan Golf Tour with victory at the 2012 Fujisankei Classic.

Bae Sang-moon has concentrated mainly on the PGA Tour this year, and almost claimed his first victory in the USA when he was involved in a play-off at the Transitions Championship.

The two Koreans are both 26 – which means only two members of Ozaki’s Team are over thirty years of age.

Age is no issue for the peerless Yang, 40, who almost claimed his 12th career victory at the 2012 China Masters in October, before losing a thrilling play-off to local favourite Liang Wen-chong – nominated as Ozaki’s Vice Captain for the Royal Trophy.

Singh, also 40, proved there is plenty of great golf to come from him too with victory at the 2012 Scottish Open, the 20th professional victory of his illustrious career.

With so many proven winners and so much potential in their ranks, it is no wonder Ozaki rates this Asian Team as the finest to grace the Royal Trophy so far.

“The Asian Team is certainly very strong;” stated Lincoln Venancio, the Royal Trophy Managing Director.

“But they will be facing a high-in-confidence European Team following their dramatic victory at Medinah Country Club outside of Chicago. This promises to be a truly fantastic series of matches with Captain Ozaki leading an extremely powerful Team and two-time Masters champion José Maria Olazábal counting with a very experienced Team which features six Ryder Cup players;” concluded Lincoln Venancio.

The sixth edition of the Royal Trophy will be played on 14-16 December with the foursomes matches being played on the opening day, the four-ball encounters being held on Saturday and the eight head-to-head singles matches being featured on Sunday. It is an opportunity not to be missed.


The sixth edition of the Royal Trophy – Europe vs Asia Golf Championship will be played at The Empire Hotel & Country Club in the Sultanate of Brunei on 14-16 December 2012. The continents will compete in a series of 16 foursomes, four-ball and singles matches. The Royal Trophy Players’ Committee is comprised of Sir Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam OBE, José Maria Olazábal, Paul McGinley, Isao Aoki, Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki and Jeev Milkha Singh. The Royal Trophy is sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour Organization and is promoted internationally by Entertainment Group (Asia) Limited.

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