It could have been worse – Monty

Europe’s Colin Montgomerie was relieved not to be facing a greater deficit after the first round of the Royal Trophy.

Europe captain Colin Montgomerie was relieved not to be facing a greater deficit after Asia claimed a 2½ – 1½ lead in the opening round foursomes at the Royal Trophy on Friday
The hosts, aiming to stage a successful title defence after winning 10-6 last year, started well, and looked at one stage like finishing the day with a 3-1 lead.
But a half point from Soren Kjeldsen and Peter Hanson kept the deficit down heading into tomorrow’s four-balls.
“I think if you ask my players how they played most of them would not have been happy with their performance, so in that sense we escaped a bit,” said Montgomerie.
“We are certainly not complaining about the position we are in, because we know we can play a lot better – and we will have to if we are to get back into the match.”
The Japanese duo of Ryo Ishikawa and Koumei Oda put early momentum into Asia’s performance when, in the lead-off match, they rallied to beat Montgomerie and Pablo Martin of Spain 3&2 in the first match.
The European pair were two up through three holes, but contrived to three-putt the third from seven feet before Ishikawa sank a birdie on the next hole to level.
Ishikawa and Oda then picked up birdies on the seventh and eighth to move into a two-hole lead from which Montgomerie and Martin never recovered.
Europe’s only win of the day came when Robert Karlsson and Alexander Noren beat Charlie Wi and Liang Wen-chong 4&2.
The match between Kjeldsen and Hanson and Indian duo Jeev Milkha Singh and Gaganjeet Bhullar ended all square while Thai duo Prayad Marksaeng and Thongchai Jaidee wrapped up a 3&1 win over England’s Simon Dyson and Swede Henrik Stenson.
“We need to fight back as a European team and we need to win the series tomorrow to come out equal for the singles matches,” said Montgomerie, a veteran of eight Ryder Cups.
“It will be very close again and we are looking forward to it.”
Montgomerie has opted to tinker slightly with his team for tomorrow with the 46-year-old partnering England’s Simon Dyson in the opening match against Singh and Bhullar while Martin and Stenson will anchor Europe’s bid to overturn the one-point deficit, facing Marksaeng and Jaidee in the final match.
Hanson and Kjeldsen tackle Wi and Liang in the second match while Karlsson and Noren then play against Ishikawa and Oda.
Dyson, who won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last year, conceded too many mistakes were made throughout the day but is eager to make amends tomorrow.
“It was pretty close to start with,” he said. “We managed to scramble a half which was kind of the story of the day.
“There were a few mistakes out there today and we will look to rectify them tomorrow.”
Five players in last year’s winning side are back for Asia and their understanding of the course showed.
Captain Joe Ozaki admitted he was pleased to see his team gain the upper hand.
“I am very happy to be leading by a point,” he said. “It was another good performance from my team.”