Golf

Asia on course for triumph

2013-12-21 21:10
Thongchai Jaidee (AFP)

Guangzhou - Thailand strongmen Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat maintained their invincible partnership to keep Asia on course for a historic successful title defence in the Royal Trophy.

On a day of wildly fluctuating fortunes which saw two dramatic halved matches and a victory for Europe via Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen, the fourball session ended in a frenzied 2-2 draw.

Having triumphed 3-1 in Thursday's foursomes, Asia will take a 5-3 advantage into Sunday's eight singles contests over the Dragon Lake Golf Club's Asian Games Course in southern China.

For the second day in succession the powerful Thai duo came up trumps for non-playing Asian captain Y. E. Yang

In the foursomes they had thrashed Scotsmen Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher 5&3 but they had to work harder in the fourballs, prevailing 2&1 against the same opponents thanks largely to the heroics of Kiradech who snared six birdies.

Wiesberger and Olesen, who was celebrating his 24th birthday, brought a welcome smile to the face of European captain Jose Maria Olazabal when they saw off Japan's Ryo Ishikawa and Hiroyuki Fujita, also 2&1.

In the remaining two matches, there were stunning turnarounds as England's David Howell and Scot Marc Warren and then Koreans Kim Kyung-Tae and Kim Hyung-Sung both surrendered seemingly unassailable positions.

Two-up with two holes to play, Howell and Warren were pegged back by China's Liang Wenchong and Wu Ashun.

It was then the turn of the Kims to falter as Spaniard Alvaro Quiros and Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts made an equally improbable escape when they won the final two holes to claim a half-point.

Despite the two-point deficit, Olazabal is holding onto the hope of a final-day charge reminiscent of Europe's Ryder Cup comeback at Medinah last year when they entered the singles trailing by four points but emerged triumphant.

He said: "Getting a half in that last match has kept our hopes alive. If we have a solid start in the singles and put pressure on the Asian team then we can still turn it around."

Meanwhile, Yang, whose team are bidding to win the Royal Trophy back-to-back for the first time, remains confident.

He said: "I'm a little disappointed with losing that final half a point and I was pretty nervous watching the last two matches. I hope we still have the momentum and that we can finish off the job in the singles."

With firm greens, swirling winds and camera-clicking galleries posing challenges for the players, Asia held the ascendancy for much of the second day leading in all four matches at one point.

Howell and Warren came from behind to lead two-up but saw Liang hole a 25-footer for birdie at 17 before the local heroes completed their comeback by taking the 18th when neither European could manage a par.

The stage was then clear for Qurios who produced a brilliant nine-iron approach over trees at 18 to within six feet. After consulting Colsaerts and captain Olazabal about the line he rolled home the birdie putt. "I knew how crucial that was," he said.

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