(Reuters) - Holders Europe raced into an early lead on the opening day of the Royal Trophy on Friday with Jose Maria Olazabal’s side winning three of Friday’s four foursome matches against Asia.
It could have been a 4-0 whitewash but playing captain Olazabal hooked his tee shot on the 18th out of bounds and he and Spanish partner Miguel Angel Jimenez conceded the hole to finish all square with South Korean duo Kim Kyung-tae and Yang Yong-eun.
While Olazabal was disappointed by his final hole drive, he was happy with the efforts of his seven team mates in the alternate shot format as they took a commanding 3 1/2-1/2 lead in the annual contest loosely based on the Ryder Cup model.
“It was a good result. Three points and a half that is obviously a good solid start just a little disappointed on the way I played 18th hole but apart from that you have to look at the whole picture,” Olazabal said in a televised interview.
Olazabal will be confident his side can retain the title needing only four-and-a-half more points from Saturday’s four fourball matches and Sunday’s eight singles.
Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Swede Henrik Stenson got Europe off to a fast start at the Empire Country Club in Brunei as the duo recorded a 5&4 win over Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and South Korean Bae Sang-moon.
The European pairing making a mockery of the supposed tough format by making eight birdies in 14 holes.
It quickly became 2-0 as Italian brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari recorded a 2&1 win over China’s Wu Ashun and Japanese Yoshinori Fujimoto after firing six birdies in seven holes from the ninth.
Their run of birdies came either side of a two hour break in play for Friday prayers.
Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts then rolled in a 10ft downhill putt on the last as he and German playing partner Marcel Siem recorded a 1-up win over Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Jeev Milkha Singh of India to make it 3-0.
“He saved me there on 18... great putt on 18 and it would be great to play with him again,” said Siem, who looked to have given Asia a chance of halving the match with a wild drive down the last.
Jimenez holed an even longer putt on 17 as he and Europe’s captain went 1-up with one to play before twice U.S. Masters champion Olazabal hooked his final shot to give Asia, led by non-playing captain Joe Ozaki, something on a poor day.
Asia have won the Royal Trophy only once, in 2009 when Olazabal and Ozaki were captains, with Europe winning the four other editions.
Reporting by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O'Brien