GUANGZHOU, China — Asia dominated Europe in an aggressive start on the first day of the three-day Royal Trophy golf championship on the Asian Games Course of the Dragon Lake Golf Club on Friday.
South Korean duo Kim Hyoung-sung and Kim Kyung-tae shut down their European opponents Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium and Bernd Wiesberger of Austria with a hand full of birdies and an impressive eagle on the Par-4 Hole Four.
But the Scottish-English twosome of Marc Warren and David Howell saved face for the Europeans, preventing an utter rout by defeating Liang Wen-chong and Wu Ashun of China in the last match of Day One’s foursomes play.
Asia Team Captain Yang Yong-eun, East Asia’s first Major champion, said he would defend the Royal Trophy and give Europe another taste of defeat yesterday at the opening ceremony and he did just that, as the day’s play drew to a close and the sun set over the verdant hills of Dragon Lake Hotel.
Asia defeated Europe at the Sixth Edition of the Royal Trophy in Brunei last year.
Yang, 41, said he chose to pair his eight players according to nationality —Thais, South Koreans, Chinese and Japanese — for communication reasons.
The practical decision proved to work great. In a chat on the front nine, he said he was confident that his many world-ranked players would prove their worth against their European rivals, and this was also the reason he opted out as a playing captain.
Yang is leading Team Asia as captain for the first time this year. “Unfortunately for me but fortunately for the Asia Team, there were a number of Asian players with world rankings that are higher than me.”
“We had done well last time, and this year we are strong. So, we can probably achieve the same result,” he said.
The Royal Trophy originated from the vision of legendary five-time Major winner, the late Severiano Ballesteros, who intended to build a highly competitive international tournament that can provide the same golf growth impetus the Ryder Cup lent to Europe in the 1980s and 1990s.
The “Spanish wizard,” Ballesteros was simply a sporting genius during his years on the Tour and amassed victories throughout the world.
The new generation of Asian players has seen what players like Yang have achieved, and that makes them hungry for international competition which will help them achieve greater success.
Although Wu Ashun of China and Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand are young, they both have tournament wins under their belt and have played well in big events.
The question is whether the Asian players, heady with such a decisive win, can hold on to their two-point lead and defend last year’s victory against top tier European golfers.
By Philip Iglauer, Korea Herald correspondent