original article

Alex and the Royal cup 2014The Royal Trophy's war of words broke out again with European Captain Jose Maria Olazabal warning Asian counterpart Y.E.Yang that the opening Foursomes matches could become the "stuff of nightmares". That latest verbal volley came as the two Captains attempted to land an early psychological blow when the draw for the first day's play was announced.

Asian Captain Y.E.Yang nodded his head in satisfaction as he looked over the match–ups, and predicted his Team would end the opening session at Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou with a 3–1 lead.

His Vice–Captain, Chinese golf legend Zhang Lian–wei, was even more bullish about the Asian Team's prospect for the Royal Trophy's first visit to his country – he predicted they would complete a clean sweep in the Foursomes!

Yang tried to take a step back, aware that his opposite number had taken offence 24 hours earlier at his claim the three days of competition would be "quite a challenge for the European Team". He commented: "I do think we could lose one match, but I believe we may win the session 3–1, although I accept that may be wishful thinking."

Olazabal was in no mood for conciliation though, and he turned to his watching players and asked if they had understood the Asian officials' comments. He said: "I don't know if you heard that, but Captain Yang says we will lose 3–1 and Vice Captain Zhang says it will be 4–0. Well, I think we had better turn that wishful thinking into the stuff of nightmares."

If the golf is only half as entertaining as the verbal sparring, this week's competition should have no trouble in living up to the drama of the 2012 match, when Asia triumphed in a playoff after the team were tied 8–8.

Despite the posturing from both camps, the two Teams again look incredibly well–matched, and it would be no surprise if they ended the first session of play level at 2–2. With Yang announcing his lead-off pair first – the in-form Thai duo of Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who have shared four Asian Order of Merit titles – Olazabal had the option of pitting any of his four parings against them.

But he said: "I have the pairings and the order pretty settled in my mind, and I don't see the need to make any changes. We are ready, and we are here to win."

The responsibility for giving them a winning start was handed to the vastly experienced Scottish partnership of Paul Lawrie – a former Open champion and a member of Olazabal's winning Ryder Cup team last year – and reigning Dubai Desert Classic champion Stephen Gallacher. Olazabal added: "This partnership gelled very well at the Seve Trophy recently and they are both very experienced golfers. They like to play fast and they are the right men to lead the Team out."

Yang expressed similar confidence in his duo. He said: "Thongchai is our most experienced match play exponent as this will be his sixth Royal Trophy appearance, and he combines very well with Kiradech." And Yang admitted he deliberately kept the Chinese pairing of Liang Wen-chong and Wu Ashun until last to build up the anticipation among the home supporters.

Europe's 'tail–gunners' will be England's David Howell and the third Scotsman in the Team, Marc Warren.

That left Japan's Ryo Ishikawa and Hiroyuki Fujita to face the big-hitting pairing of Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and Bernd Wiesberger of Austria, while Korea's K.T.Kim and H.S.Kim will take on Spaniard Alvaro Quiros and Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark.


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