Confidence has grown in the Asian team that it can overcome its deficit of matchplay experience and beat Europe in the Royal Trophy starting today.
Europe has won both previous editions of the continental clash and boasts five players in its eight-man team with experience of Ryder Cup play.
South Korea’s Charlie Wi said Asia was confident of staging an upset win at the Amata Springs Country Club in Thailand, despite the difference in experience.
“Even the guys who weren’t involved in those first two matches, which is the majority of us, are aware that Asia did not perform as well as we should have, and that is a big motivation for us,” Wi said.
“I have been encouraged by just how positive the mood is in the team room. The talk is not about how strong or how experienced the Europeans are at match play, but how to make sure we get the best out of our team — which will hopefully be enough for us to shade it.” he said.
Sweden’s Niclas Fasth is one of the five on the Europe team with Ryder Cup experience and said that could prove decisive over the foursomes today, the four-ball tomorrow and Sunday’s singles.
“The Ryder Cup brings out the best of players and it can make a bit of a difference in a team competition,” Fasth said.
In today’s first foursomes match, 17-year-old Japanese Ryo Ishikawa and compatriot Toru Taniguchi will face Scotland’s Paul Lawrie and Dane Soren Hansen.
That will be followed by the Asia pairing of Wi and China’s Liang Wenchong against Ireland’s Paul McGinley and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain.
The all-English duo of Nick Dougherty and Oliver Wilson will square off against South Korea’s S.K. Ho and Japan’s Hideto Tanihara in the third foursomes, while the final match will pitch the Thai pairing of Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng against Fasth and fellow Swede Johan Edfors.
Lawrie is the only major winner among the 16 competitors.
Asia captain Naomichi “Joe” Ozaki was also captain for the 2007 event when Europe trounced Asia 12-1/2 to 3-1/2 and was aiming for much better when his side takes on a European team captained by Spaniard Jose-Maria Olazabal, a replacement for Seve Ballesteros.
“I want to beat Olazabal’s team very badly but it will be difficult as Asian players are still not used to matchplay formats,” Ozaki said. “My players need to show guts and fighting spirit and beat the guys in front of them.”
Olazabal took over as captain after Ballesteros was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year that required several operations.
He was released from a hospital on Dec. 9 and returned home to northern Spain, where he began chemotherapy treatment.