CHONBURI, Thailand – Europe turned the tables on Asia at the Royal Trophy on Saturday, winning three of four matches in the four-ball competition to take a 4 1/2 to 3 1/2 lead into the final day.
“To come out 3-1 was a great result for Europe,” Europe captain Colin Montgomerie said.
“To go into the singles matches one ahead gives us a good advantage. But the job is only half over. There are eight points to play tomorrow, it’s a big day.”
Scotland’s Montgomerie and Simon Dyson of England set the tone early, beating India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar and Jeev Milkha Singh, 4 and 3, to even the competition at 2 1/2 points each after Asia edged day one’s foursomes.
“We enjoyed playing together today. Simon played specially well throughout the day,” Montgomerie said. “We kept both balls in play, and that was key. We hardly missed a fairway between us, and that’s why we came out victorious.”
Asia regained the lead when Charlie Wi of South Korea and Liang Wenchong of China – the only Asian pair who lost on day one – flew five shots ahead by the turn and completed a 5-and-4 win over Peter Hanson of Sweden and Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark.
Wi was much happier with his performance Saturday, getting off to a “really great start and made a couple of birdies, and Liang really put us on top after that.”
However, Europe got even again when the Swedish pair of Robert Karlsson and Alexander Noren had a dominant 6-and-4 win against the Japanese teen sensation Ryo Ishikawa and his countryman Koukei Oda, preventing the Asia pair from taking a single hole.
“After winning our first match we felt it was important to get off to a good start again, and not give them anything,” Karlsson said. “It was a very big match, and it is going to be a tough day tomorrow with two strong teams. I’m looking forward to it.”
Europe then ensured it would take the lead into the final day, as Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Pablo Martin of Spain combined for a 3-and-1 win over the Thai duo of Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng.
Stenson birdied the 10th and 13th to give Europe a grip on the match.
Martin credited the team’s putting especially on the back nine where Stenson seemed to be sinking shots from everywhere.
“The match is still quite even and we have to go out there and play our best golf,” Martin said. “That is the only way.”
The draw for Sunday’s singles was an intriguing one, with home favorite Thongchai drawn to face Europe’s top player Stenson in the final match if it goes that far. Wie will take on Dyson in the opening singles encounter.
The rest of the draw has Liang vs. Montgomerie, Oda vs. Noren, Singh vs. Karlsson, Prayad vs. Martin, Ishikawa vs. Hanson and Bhullar vs. Kjeldsen.
Asia won last year’s competition after losing to Europe in the first two editions of the event in 2006 and 2007.