Montgomerie Leads Europe With Three Wins; Former Pack Golfer Wi Notches Win

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

BANGKOK — Player-captain Colin Montgomerie led from the front as Europe fought back against holders Asia in the Royal Trophy with three morale-boosting wins on Saturday.

Europe, trailing 2 1/2 -1 1/2 after the opening foursomes, go into the final day singles leading 4 1/2 - 3 1/2 and needing four points to regain the silverware at Amata Spring Country Club.

"It was very important to win three matches -- it was a great day," said Montgomerie. "We go into the singles a point ahead which gives us a great advantage. But the job is only half done -- there are eight points still to play for. It will be a big day."

Asian captain Naomichi 'Joe' Ozaki, who led the team to a stunning 10-6 victory last year, remained upbeat despite Saturday's reversals.

"Everyone on the team wants to win tomorrow," he said. "We are here to defend our title -- hopefully we can get some early momentum in the singles."

The 46-year-old Montgomerie, wounded by an opening loss to Japanese young gun Ryo Ishikawa, teamed up with Simon Dyson to beat the Indian pair of Jeev Milkha Singh and Gaganjeet Bhullar by 4 and 3 in their fourball encounter.

There was a bit of needling in the match with Montgomerie, showing the intensity he will require when he captains Europe in the Ryder Cup in October, questioning why Bhullar was putting when out of the hole.

England's Dyson, currently lying fourth on the European Tour's Ryder Cup rankings, took the opportunity to impress the captain with a couple of chip-ins from off the green.

"We enjoyed it and Simon played especially well throughout the day," said Montgomerie, one of the greatest Ryder Cup players of all time with eight appearances in the biennial clash against the United States.

"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."

The red-hot combination of Robert Karlsson and Alexander Noren, the only European winners in the opening day foursomes, kept the momentum going with a thumping 6 and 4 victory over Ishikawa and Koumei Oda.

World number 30 Ishikawa and Oda took the scalps of Montgomerie and Pablo Martin in the foursomes but failed to shine against the Swedes who were a staggering 10-under-par after 14 holes.

"Someone said our combined score was 10-under but I did not know it was that low," said Karlsson, Europe's number one in 2008. "After winning our first match we felt it was important to get off to a good start again and not give them anything."

Charlie Wi and Liang Wen-chong bounced back from their opening loss with a comprehensive 5 and 4 win over the struggling duo of Peter Hanson and Soren Kjeldsen to give Asia a much-needed point.

Wi, a US PGA Tour regular, and former Asian number one Liang won the first hole and never looked back in a one-sided tussle. Kjeldsen was ruled out of the opening hole after his caddy broke the rules by repairing a pitch mark on his player's line.

"I got off to a great start and made a couple of birdies and Liang really put us on top after that," said Wi. "He made a couple of clutch putts and we made seven birdies on the front nine -- that's really tough to beat."

World number seven Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Martin rounded off a good day's work for Europe with a hard-fought 3 and 1 win over the Thai pairing of Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng, who had 100 per cent records last year and won their foursomes match on Friday.

The local heroes found some form around the turn to square the match after being behind by two holes but a couple of missed putts at decisive times handed the advantage back to the experienced Stenson and Spain's Martin.

The Swede, who has played in two Ryder Cups, wrapped up the win after Prayad missed a birdie putt at the par-three 17th.

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