José Maria Olazábal believes his European Team are capable of mounting a glorious comeback to retain the Royal Trophy after losing the opening day foursomes session 3-1 to an inspired Asian Team at the Amata Spring Country Club in Thailand.
After making a superb start in the alternate shot format – Europe led all four matches in the early part of the day – the Asian Team, inspired by the Thai pairing of Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng’s 5&4 victory over the Swedish duo of Johan Edfors and Niclas Fasth, won two of the day’s four matches on the 18th green, much to the delight of the huge home crowds.
Scotland’s Paul Lawrie and Dane Søren Hansen had taken the first point of the day with a 2&1 win over teen sensation Ryo Ishikawa and Toru Taniguchi of Japan, but news of Jaidee and Marksaeng’s big win swept through the crowd to ensure Charlie Wi and Liang Wen-Chong, and then SK Ho and Hideto Tanihara, won their respective matches against Nick Dougherty and Oliver Wilson and Pablo Larrazabal and Paul McGinley.
But European Captain Olazábal believes his players have the ability and confidence to turn round the early deficit.
“I believe in the players we have and the pairings that we have,” said Olazábal, who named an unchanged line-up for Saturday’s fourballs. “The boys know that they didn’t play up to the standards that we are used to seeing from them today and they face a very tough challenge.
“We are going to have play really well in the next couple of days to win this event. The players know that we need to put our foot down on the gas and really push the pedal. I have said all along this week that we a great respect for the Asian Team, but we believe that we can win here and tomorrow we are going to have to play our guts out.”
Dougherty, Larrazabal, McGinley and Wilson were desperately disappointed to lose their matches on the 18th green.
Wilson said: “Nick and I didn’t play well at all – at the end of the day we lost that match and we should never have lost it from the position that we were in. We got off to a good start and then a few poor shots and hit some very poor chips today. If we could have kept the pressure on the Asian Team when we were two up then we would have been pretty comfortable. We didn’t so well today – it was a poor performance on our behalf.
“But there is a long way to go though and we are still very confident. We know that it is important to get off to a good start in matchplay and we haven’t done that. We have to get together and get our heads together and turn it on in the next couple of days. The first day is over now and we move on and get plenty of points on the board tomorrow.”
Larrazabal said: “Paul and I played really well for the first eight holes. We were three up but I think we just lost the concentration a little bit and then lost the momentum we had after putting the ball in the water in the ninth. Then, all of a sudden, they won three holes in a row and we were back to all square. Tomorrow is a new day and we will have to go out there and attack and be very aggressive.”
Royal Trophy – Friday Results (Foursomes)
Ryo Ishikawa (Jpn) and Toru Taniguchi (Jpn) lost to Paul Lawrie (Sco) and Soren Hansen (Den) 2 & 1; Charlie Wi (Kor) and Liang Wen-chong (PRC) beat Paul McGinley (Ire) and Pablo Larrazabal (Esp) 2-up; Hideto Tanihara (Jpn) and S.K. Ho (Kor) beat Nick Dougherty (Eng) and Oliver Wilson (Eng) 1-up; Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) and Prayad Marksaeng (Tha) beat Niclas Fasth (Swe) and Johan Edfors (Swe) 5 & 4.
Royal Trophy – Saturday Draw (Fourballs)
11.05am: Ryo Ishikawa and Toru Taniguchi vs Soren Hansen (Den) and Paul Lawrie (Sco)
11.18am: Charlie Wi (Kor) and Liang Wen-chong (PRC) vs Nick Dougherty (Eng) and Oliver Wilson (Eng)
11.31am: Hideto Tanihara (Jpn) and S.K. Ho (Kor) vs Niclas Fasth (Swe) and Johan Edfors (Swe)
11.44am: Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) and Prayad Marksaeng (Tha) vs Pablo Larrazabal (Esp) and Paul McGinley (Ire)