YANG INSISTS ASIA WILL NOT BE COMPLACENT AFTER FOURSOMES ROMP


Asian Captain Y.E.Yang’s confident prediction proved spot–on as his Team took a significant first step towards retaining the Royal Trophy by romping to a 3–1 success in the opening round of Foursomes matches.

Yang may have come out second best in a feisty war of words with European counterpart Jose Maria Olazabal, but he was more than happy to let his players’ golf do the talking once play got under way at Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou.

Asia’s first Major winner had shown he was tired of trading verbal blows with Olazabal, by announcing: “The time for words is over. It is time for the golf to start, and we are ready to rock and roll.”

And his team hit all the right notes, as the super–charged Thai duo of Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat gave them the perfect start by storming to a 5&3 success in the opening match, against what was expected to be Europe’s top pairing, Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher.

Both Thailand golfers have enjoyed stellar years, and it showed as they dovetailed brilliantly.

They rattled off five birdies and an eagle – and were awarded another eagle when the rattled Scottish pair both lost balls off the sixth tee. That meant the finished the round at seven under par – and in Foursomes, that will usually get the job done against any opposition.

The Asian ride continued with Ryo Ishikawa and Hiroyuki Fujita of Japan and the Korean partnership of K.T. Kim and H.S. Kim registering emphatic victories.

The only consolation for Europe was when the final pairing of David Howell and Marc Warren came from one down after nine holes to post a morale–boosting 2 &1 victory over China’s Liang Wen–chong and Wu Ashun.

Playing in front of their home supporters the Chinese golfers were clearly feeling nervous, and despite holding that slim advantage at halfway it was obvious they were struggling to deal with the weight of expectation.

But they finished strongly after falling losing three holes in a row just after the turn, and Yang will be able to take added confidence from the way they came to terms with the pressure.

The Asian Captain refused to gloat over the way his assessment that his Team would lose only one match on day one was borne out.

He said: “I predicted the outcome and we are obviously in a strong position. But it is just a great start, and there is plenty more work to be done. But if we continue to play like this, I think we will be fine.

“I am not concerned about the danger of becoming overconfident after recording three big victories in the four matches.

“There were no problems with complacency when they went well clear in their matches, and everyone is playing well, so we are in buoyant mood.”

Olazabal admitted securing that last point was vital, in terms of boosting team spirit and giving his team some momentum for Saturday’s Fourball matches.

He said: “Obviously it was a bad day for us, and we certainly didn’t expect to be this far behind after the first session. It was crucial to get that first point on the board, because 3–1 looks a lot better than 4–0.

“I think we had a few problems with the guys feeling a bit tired, because it was a long journey and a big time change, and most of them didn’t arrive until Tuesday night.

“That seemed to affect us, but with another night’s rest I’m sure the boys will come out feeling a lot fresher, and ready to rumble.

“They all know they will have to play aggressively right from the word go to put some more points on the board.

“The boys feel we are probably better suited to the Fourball format, so let’s see what happens next. But we don’t have much room for manvouveure – we really have to go for it from now on.”

Olazabal also took comfort from the fact his 2012 Team had an even bigger advantage than the one this Asian Team built up – Europe were leading 3 ½ – ½ at this stage last year but they were still pegged back to 88 and were eventually pipped in a play–0ff.

He added: “Asia fought back from a big deficit, and we have to make sure we do the same thing. But we know it’s possible, as long as we play to our full potential.”

But he will not have been encouraged by the positive vibes being given off by most of the Asian players.

The policy of picking two players from four different countries and sending them out together paid big dividends for Captain Yang.

His players clearly feel comfortable in their designated pairings, and Thongchai pointed out: “I enjoyed playing with Kiradech, and I think it was the same for all our pairings.

“We talked a lot about how to play well in this format, and we had a very good game plan that we stuck to – although you can only do that if you are hitting good shots.

“Kiradech did that and so did I, and our games were a good fit. Our iron shots were very good and we made some good putts, and it was good to get the first point when the Captain had confidence in us as his first pairing.”

Those comments were echoed by Japanese superstar Ryo Ishikawa, like Thongchai a battle–hardened Royal Trophy warrior – they have now made 11 appearances in the competition between them.

Ishikawa commented: “I have never played with Hiroyuki Fujita in this format before, but we combined well because we are so different.

“His drives and iron shots were very straight, and it meant I could be a bit more flamboyant with some of my shots.

“All the Team is communicating well, and we are enjoying each other’s company. It helps to produce good golf when you feel relaxed and confident with your team–mates.

Asian Vice–Captain Zhang Lian–wei admitted he felt powerless to help his Chinese countrymen Liang and Wu even though he followed them for the full 18 holes.

Royal Trophy rules state only the Captains can offer advice to their players, and Zhang could see the Chinese duo becoming increasingly nervous in the face of the fightback from Howell and Warren.

He said: “The Chinese boys made a few mistakes between the 10th and 14th holes, and that was when they needed some encouragement, some advice.

“It was not easy for them with so many Chinese people following them, but they did their best and they can take confidence from the first day’s score. Like me, they can feel a little sad, but also a bit happy.”

Howell revealed his partnership with Warren prospered mainly because he was no good at reading the scoreboards.

He said “Early on I thought all the other guys were well up, and we were the only Team trailing!

“It came as a bit of a shock when our match got to the eleventh hole, and I saw that we had already lost the first point. That sort of concentrated the mind, and luckily Marc played some super golf all day.

“The shot he holed from a bunker on the eight, when his ball was completely buried, was a real bonus and it’s nice to give the Team something to feel good about by winning that last point.”

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.