Asia’s all-rookie combination of Yoshinori Fujimoto and Wu Ashun looked set to claim a notable scalp before they let the Molinari brothers off the hook on the opening day of the Royal Trophy golf championship at The Empire Hotel & Country Club, Brunei, on Friday.
The sixth Royal Trophy features Europe against an Asian team is being played until Sunday in a series of 16 foursomes, four-ball and singles matches.
On Friday, Chinese ace Wu’s birdie putt lipped out on the eighth, and Edoardo Molinari holed an outrageous thirty footer on the ninth to ensure the hole would be halved in birdies.
That seemed to swing the match the way of the Italians — Eduardo and Francesco — who have triumphed in both the Ryder Cup and the World Cup of golf in the past. They rattled off four more birdies at the start of the second nine, and the European duo canceled out Fujimoto’s defiant birdie from 12 feet on the short 14th with yet another birdie of their own on the 15th.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Jeev Milkha Singh lost to Marcel Siem and Nicolas Colsaerts one down.
This match took along time to warm up, with neither paring managing a single birdie until Kiradech hit a glorious approach to around seven feet on the ninth, and Singh calmly sank the decisive putt. But as in every other match, it seemed the mandatory break at the end of the first nine did the Asian combinations no favors at all.
Singh’s approach again ended up seven feet away, but when Colsaerts hit his second shot to within tap-in range, Kiradech could not find the putt to force a half. Two clumsy birdies handed the Europeans a vital advantage and even though they clawed a hole back with a birdie on the long 16th they came up just short in a scrappy encounter.
Ryo Ishikawa and Bae Sang-moon lost to Henrik Stenson and Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño 5&4
This was Foursomes of the highest quality, even if Bae later claimed he had been disappointed with his performance. He and Ishikawa threw five birdies at their opponents in the first seven holes — and still found themselves one down at that point.
Stenson and Fernández-Castaño had edged in front when their opponents failed to make par on the sixth. But they did not need any help as they romped away with the back nine.
They birdied the first four holes, with Stenson doing most of the damage with his searing long game and Ferandez-Castano showing a tremendous touch with the putter.
YE Yang and KT Kim halved with Miguel Ángel Jiménez and José Maria Olazábal
The all-Korean duo of Yang and Kim prevented a European clean sweep in the opening session, but only after a titanic duel with the battle-hardened Spaniards. It was punch and counter punch from the very start, with Jimenez rolling in a 15 footer to win the opening hole, and Kim smashing a magnificent second shot onto the green at the long second to leave his partner a great chance of eagle.
Yang’s ten-footer agonizingly lipped out, but a birdie was good enough to win the hole. The European captain and his partner edged two clear with birdies at the sixth and tenth holes, but it was all-square after 15 as the Koreans dug deep. It still looked like another point for Europe as they win the 17th hole to one up again — but they then put one ball in a water hazard and lost another in a bush, and wisely shook hands on a half.