Asia staged a remarkable comeback to take a convincing 3-1 lead over Europe in the Royal Trophy team competition after the opening foursomes yesterday.
The Asians, heavily beaten in the last edition of the continental clash in 2007, looked like they were in big trouble early on with the Europeans, captained by Jose Maria Olazabal, up in all four matches at Amata Spring Country Club.
But inspired play by the Asian team resulted in the match being turned on its head.
Korea’s Charlie Wi and former Asian No. 1 Liang Wenchong of China claimed the biggest scalp, coming back from three down to beat Ireland’s team golf specialist Paul McGinley and Spanish youngster Pablo Larrazabal.
Asian captain Naomichi Ozaki was thrilled with the performance.
“I feel like I am dreaming — it is so different from last time,” he said. “The Asian players know each other well and know how to play with each other.”
Denmark’s Soren Hansen and former British Open champion Paul Lawrie of Scotland gave Europe the perfect start.
They produced a fighting display to beat the Japanese duo of Ryo Ishikawa, the youngest winner of a Tour title in world golf, and two-time Japan Tour No. 1 Toru Taniguchi in the opening match.
In the second match, Wi and Liang pulled off a famous two-up victory over McGinley and Larrazabal to level the overall score.
Europe looked like they had the point in the bag as McGinley and Larrazabal went three up after eight holes.
Loose play allowed Asia to peg them back to all square after 12. Asia claimed the victory when the Europeans conceded the final hole after McGinley drove into the water and his partner found a bunker.
S.K. Ho of Korea holed a three-foot putt at the final hole to sink English duo Nick Dougherty and Oliver Wilson in the third match. Ho and Japan’s Hideto Tanihara took advantage of several slip-ups by their opponents to win one up.
In the anchor match, local heroes Prayad Marksaeng and Thongchai Jaidee overcame a nightmare start to beat the Swedish duo of Johan Edfors and Niclas Fasth 5 and 4.