Asia is pouring it on Europe in match play

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BANGKOK, Thailand --- Asia took a commanding 61/2 to 11/2 lead over Europe by dominating Saturday's fourball play at the Royal Trophy.

Europe's Oliver Wilson escapes from a bunker in Saturday's Royal Trophy. The former Augusta State star is 0-2 in team play against front-running Asia. It wraps up with singles today.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Europe's Oliver Wilson escapes from a bunker in Saturday's Royal Trophy. The former Augusta State star is 0-2 in team play against front-running Asia. It wraps up with singles today.

The Asian pairs won three of four in the fourball and halved the other to take a big lead at the Royal Trophy ahead of Sunday's eight singles matches at Amata Spring Country Club in Thailand's seaside Chonburi province.

Oliver Wilson, a former Augusta State star, was on one of the European losing teams. He and Nick Dogherty were 3-and-2 losers to Charlie Wi of South Korea and Liang Wenchong of China.

"I feel like dancing" said Asia captain Naomichi "Joe" Ozaki before briefly breaking into a jig when speaking to media after the day's play. "I'm very happy with the situation now. But we still don't know what is going to happen tomorrow.

"I will talk to the players in the morning to keep their momentum in the final round. I want the players to play aggressively and play well at the back nine."

Asia had never led at a day's end in two previous editions of the event, but continued the good form shown in Friday's foursomes.

"We can not stop believing that we can win or there would be no point in going out there tomorrow," Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal said. "We are going to have to do something really special tomorrow, but I have to say that I believe that any of the players in the European team can beat any of the players in the Asian team."

Europe got its only positive result of the day when Soren Hansen sank a pressure putt on the 18th, allowing he and Scotland's Paul Lawrie to salvage half a point against the Japanese pair of Ryo Ishikawa and Toru Taniguchi.

It was less than the Euro duo had expected for much of the round in which Denmark's Hansen's 6-under 66 held off their Japanese rivals, until Ishikawa's birdie at the 16th evened things. In an effort to establish some much-needed momentum, Olazabal has assigned his top in-form players to the early matches for today's singles.

Hansen will take on Ishikawa in the day's first match, followed by former British Open winner Lawrie against Liang. The final scheduled match, should the contest go that far, would pit Thongchai against McGinley.

JOBURG OPEN: In Johannesburg, South Africa, Charl Schwartzel of South Africa had a hole-in-one on his way to 8-under-par 63 and a share of the lead after the third round of the event co-sanctioned by the European and Sunshine tours.

Schwartzel hit a 7-iron into the cup at the 205-yard 12th at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club's East Course, atoning for his double-bogey 6 at No. 11.

"My last hole-in-one was in July 1998 when I was 13 years old," Schwartzel said. "I pitched it short and landed in the hole, so that was really nice."

Schwartzel's 11-under 202 total tied him with South Africa's Andrew McLardy and Scotland's David Drysdale.

McLardy scrapped his way to 69, while Drysdale birdied the 18th for 71.

Retief Goosen had six birdies for 65 to join Sweden's Joakim Haeggman (66) and Norway's Anders Hansen (64) one shot back in a tie for fourth after a round that included two weather delays.

"I was a bit far behind, especially after the first round when I had a terrible start," Hansen said. "But I got myself back into the tournament so we'll see what's going to happen."


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