Europe heading towards Royal Trophy victory

Europe powered into a convincing 6-2 lead over Asia and need only two and a half points from tomorrow’s eight singles matches to win the inaugural Royal Trophy at a blustery Amata Spring Country Club near Bangkok.

Europe powered into a convincing 6-2 lead over Asia and need only two and a half points from tomorrow’s eight singles matches to win the inaugural Royal Trophy at a blustery Amata Spring Country Club near Bangkok.

The foundations were laid by Seve Ballesteros’ men after they took three of the morning’s four foursome matches and then followed up with a similar result in the fourballs.

Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam, playing together for the first time since the 1991 Ryder Cup, failed to live up to their pre-tournament billing, beaten convincingly 6&5 by Thaworn Wiratchant and Thongchai Jaidee in their foursome.

The duo had been selected by Ballesteros for their matchplay nous and experience but they ended up betrayed by a rustiness born of three months of inactivity from competition.

All-English pair David Howell and Kenneth Ferrie, who saw off SK Ho and Keiichiro Fukabori by two in their foursomes, underperformed in their fourball with Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa, eventually losing by one.

Ferrie missed a 10-foot putt on the 18th green for birdie which would have halved the match.

But otherwise the Europeans lived up to their status as favourites, quelling an early-afternoon fightback by the dogged Asians which looked as if it might get them back in the match.

At one stage Ho and Zhang Lian-wei held a two-hole advantage over Graeme McDowell and Paul McGinley, who both found the water at the gimmicky floating eighth green before getting their act together to win 2&1.

Earlier, the Irish pair had beaten Indians Atwal and Randhawa 4&3 in their alternate-shot format match.

In the other foursome, Thomas Bjorn and Henrik Stenson narrowly defeated Yasuharu Imano and Zhang.

The pairings were tied after posting one-under par scores on the front nine before a pair of bogeys handed Asia a one-hole advantage on the 15th.

But the Europeans picked up two shots in two holes to lead by one, with par at the 18th giving them the final, morale-boosting win ahead of the afternoon matches.

After their disappointing displays, Faldo and Woosnam were split up for the fourballs and each showed improved form.

Woosnam and Bjorn were in control from the outset against Wiratchant and Jaidee and were the first pairing to win, 3&2.

And Faldo, playing with the in-form Stenson, seemed more at ease on the greens and the duo defeated Fukabori and Imano by one hole to leave the Europeans sitting pretty with a four-point cushion.

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