Pattaya Daily News

29 October 2009 :: 15:10:43 pm 6479

Seve Ballesteros Nominates Stenson At Warning Shot To Asia

The Royal Trophy 2010 : Seve Ballesteros has fired a warning shot at rival Captain Naomichi ‘Joe‘ Ozaki by making Henrik Stenson his first Royal Trophy nomination - and promising there will be plenty more powerful players and big names in his European Team.
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World number seven Stenson is a proven match play ace, and the sort of heavy-hitter Europe lacked in Thailand last year when they crashed to a 10-6 defeat at the hands of Captain Ozaki’s fired-up Asian Team.

Swedish star Stenson will be making his third Royal Trophy appearance on 8-10 January, and he boasts an impressive pedigree. He helped Europe to victory over Asia in 2006 and 2007, winning two and a half points out of a possible three in his second Thailand outing.

He also finished on the winning side when he made his Ryder Cup debut against the USA in 2006, as Europe romped to a record-equalling 18 1/2 – 9 1/2 triumph at the K Club in Ireland. And even though he had to surrender his unbeaten record in team events at last year’s Ryder Cup in Valhalla – when Europe suffered their first defeat since 1999 – he still teamed up with Oliver Wilson to provide one of the few highlights for Nick Faldo’s team. Stenson and Wilson staged an amazing comeback from four down against Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim in their foursomes battle to win 2&1, a testament to the Swede’s indomitable fighting spirit.

He continues to shine even when he does not have a group of team-mates to fall back on. He followed his victory in the 2007 World Match Play Championship – an event restricted to the leading 64 players in the game – with another top drawer triumph this year, winning the Players’ Championship at Sawgrass, the so-called ‘Fifth Major’.

Stenson, 33, has also won five other European Tour titles, and teamed up with Robert Karlsson last November to win the World Cup of Golf for Sweden. Ominously, that victory over many of the top golfers on the planet came on Asian soil, at Mission Hills in China.

So it is no wonder Seve declared Stenson’s selection as a clear sign of his determination to assemble a team capable of reclaiming the Royal Trophy. The Spanish legend was forced to miss last year’s ‘Clash of the Continents’ as he began his long battle to recover from brain surgery. But he is determined to return and to get his hands on the magnificent Trophy graciously donated by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Seve commented: “I watched the latest edition of the Royal Trophy at home in Spain with a mixture of pride and pain – pride at Asia’s emergence as a formidable golfing power, but pain at seeing Europe lose.

“I have two ambitions for the 2010 Royal Trophy – to be present in my role as European Captain, provided my health and doctors allow, and to guide the European Team to victory.

“I wish to take nothing away from Asia’s wonderful and much-deserved success at the latest edition of the Tournament and it is clear that to defeat Asia we need to bring together a very strong Team. Henrik Stenson is a wonderful golfer and a terrific match play exponent, and he is a fantastic player to announce as the first name on my team-sheet.

“And I can promise Captain Ozaki there will be quite a few more players of very high calibre in my Team for the 2010 Match.”

Stenson said he was delighted at returning to Royal Trophy action. He pinpointed his eye-catching 2007 display at the Amata Spring Country Club as the springboard for the most successful run of his career.

He explained: “The confidence I gained from playing so well in the Royal Trophy definitely carried over to my individual performances. That experience spurred me on to win the WGC Accenture Match Play and the Dubai Desert Classic about a month later. The Royal Trophy is a great way to start the season.

“It felt good to get the competitive juices flowing so early in the year, and I am hoping a return to Thailand will inspire a repeat performance this time around.

“There is also a score to be settled. Hopefully the Royal Trophy will only be the first team title to be regained by Europe. Seve assures me he will field a very strong European side and there is no doubt we will benefit largely from his determination as well as his experience. It is an honor to play for him and represent Europe. But the Asian Team is very strong and they will certainly not relinquish the Trophy without a fight!

“In players such as Japanese golden boy Ryo Ishikawa and Thai favourites Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng they have golfers who are capable of performing on the big stage, and getting the crowds involved.

“I was very impressed to hear that more than 40,000 spectators turned up for the latest edition of the Royal Trophy. That shows how much the Event is growing in stature, and we will have to try to strike early to prevent those big crowds from inspiring the Asian players again.”

The fourth edition of the Royal Trophy will take place on 8-10 January 2010 at the exclusive Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi, Thailand. Asian Team Captain Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki has already nominated 18-year-old superstar Ryo Ishikawa, ten-time professional tournament title winner Prayad Marksaeng, Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Thongchai Jaidee, the Japan Tour’s hottest player Yuta Ikeda and nine-time tournament title winner Korean ace Charlie Wi for Asia’s defense of the Trophy. The Principal Award for the winning Continent is stewardship of the perpetual solid-silver sixteen-kilogram Royal Trophy, graciously donated by His Majesty the King of Thailand.

Reporter : Jack Rames   Photo : Internet   Category : Sports News

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