KIM AND OZAKI DESERVE TO SHARE ROYAL RECOGNITION


The spectacular sixth edition of the Royal Trophy will rightly be remembered for the ice-cool composure Korean star K.T. Kim showed to hole the winning birdie putt in the Competition’s first play-off.

Kim conquered his nerves and managed to shut out just how much was at stake to nail his 15-footer, and provide a fitting climax to the most exciting Royal Trophy so far. And that is quite a statement, considering how much drama the Royal Trophy has produced in previous years.

But if you look deeper, the moment the Royal Trophy was really won was probably when Asian Captain Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki put his neck on the line and fearlessly announced his master plan for turning his Team’s fortunes around.

After Asia was brushed aside 3 ½ – ½ in the opening Foursomes matches, Ozaki declared the key to victory was to halt the incredible winning run Henrik Stenson has enjoyed at the Royal Trophy. The Swedish star has proved Europe’s talisman.

He finished on the winning side in his previous four Royal Trophy appearances, and holed the winning putt twice – just as he did in his Ryder Cup debut in 2006.

He had also been beaten only three times in his 12 individual matches before this year, and was in red-hot form in the Foursomes this time as he and Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño overpowered Ryo Ishikawa and Bae-Sang-moon 5&4. The European duo made no fewer than nine birdies in 14 holes – an incredible tally for a Foursomes pairing.

Ozaki recognised that a Fourball win over that duo would be psychologically damaging for the Europeans, while providing his Asian Team with a huge morale boost.

So when the draw was made for the Fourball session, Ozaki admitted he deliberately placed what he considered to be his own strongest pairing – Kim and Asia’s first Major champion, Y.E.Yang – opposite Stenson and Fernández-Castaño.

Yang, the 2009 US PGA champion, and 2010 Japan Golf Tour Order of Merit winner Kim were the only Asian pair not to lose in the Foursomes. They earned a battling half with the formidable European combination of Player-Captain José Maria Olazábal and fellow Spaniard Miguel Ángel Jiménez.

It was a high risk policy to throw Yang and Kim in against Stenson and Fernández-Castaño, rather than try to hand them an easier task elsewhere in the draw.

But Ozaki bravely commented: “Yang and Kim are our most natural pairing. They have played together for Korea and in the Presidents Cup, and are the ones who did best for us in the Foursomes.

“So we wanted them to play Stenson and Fernández-Castaño. Henrik has a great record in the Competition and after their big Foursomes win, it would be very good for our mindset as a team if we can beat that pairing.”

The move could not have paid richer dividends. Despite being troubled by a muscle problem in his back, Yang provided a sensational start, as he holed his 135-yard approach shot at the first for a hole-winning eagle.

The Royal Trophy - Europe vs Asia Golf Championship
The Royal Trophy and all intellectual property, copyright and goodwill derived from it or related to it including without limitation
the Royal Trophy name, the Royal Trophy logo and the Competition format are the sole property of Entertainment Group (Asia) Limited.
© 2005-2014. Entertainment Group (Asia) Limited. All Rights Reserved.