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Asia claws back against Europe

ASIA took a 3-1 lead over Europe after yesterday's opening day foursomes at the Royal Trophy.

In the third staging of the matchplay event, it was the first time Asia had led Europe after the opening day.

"I feel like I'm dreaming now, especially after my past experience at the Royal Trophy," said Asia captain Naomichi "Joe" Ozaki.

Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal was disappointed but not panicked by yesterday's setbacks, electing to retain the same pairings for today's fourball, as did Asia.

"They 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," Olazabal said.

"I have said all along this week that we have 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."

Europe began strongly at the Amata Spring Country Club, when its opening pair of Soren Hansen of Denmark and Paul Lawrie of Scotland came from a hole down to beat Japanese pair Ryo Ishikawa and Toru Taniguchi of Japan 2 and 1.

The Europeans drew level at the 15th and surged ahead with successive wins on the 16th and 17th.

Asia squared it 1-1 when the local Thai pair of Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng convincingly beat Niclas Fasth and Johan Edfors of Sweden 5 and 4.

It was the last foursome to tee off but the second completed result.

The Thai team shrugged off a slow start but got into the groove from the sixth hole and never looked back. The country's top two players have experience of matchplay together and demonstrated their compatibility against the Swedes.

"We got along very well. If one of us got into trouble, the other would fix the situation," Thongchai said. "We took control after the sixth hole and were sure of winning after 11 holes."

"Europe were up in all matches in the early stage and we said let's try and fight for Asia," said Prayad, who was making his first Royal Trophy appearance.

Charlie Wi of South Korea and Liang Wenchong of China added the second point for Asia with a two up win over Paul McGinley of Ireland and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain. Wi and Liang were three holes down early but Europe's double bogey on the 11th contributed to Asia drawing level on the 16th and they then dominated the last two holes.

The European pair found the water then the sand on the final hole, tarnishing McGinley's perfect record from two previous Royal Trophy appearances.

"We were three down really quickly and we knew that we had to fight really hard to earn half a point," Wi said.

"We feel great that we pulled it off."


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