Saturday 16 December 2017

Monty's plan backfires as Ishikawa fires wake-up call

JAPAN'S teenage sensation Ryo Ishikawa gave European captain Colin Montgomerie an early wake-up call as the Royal Trophy swung into action in Bangkok yesterday.

Ishikawa (18) teamed up with his compatriot Koukei Oda (30) to beat the talismanic Scot in the first of yesterday's foursomes matches, helping title-holders Asia build a 2.5 to 1.5 points lead in the opening session. Montgomerie decided to lead his team into battle, pairing himself with Spain's Pablo Martin against the formidable Japanese duo, but the gamble backfired spectacularly.

Europe were trailing in three games and up in just one before a comeback by Peter Hanson and Soren Kjeldsen earned a half point against the Indian duo of Jeev Milkha Singh and Gaganjeet Bhullar.

Asia stunned Europe with a 10-6 victory last year and Montgomerie is looking to avenge that defeat as a confidence-booster ahead of the Ryder Cup against the USA in Celtic Manor in Wales next October.

"I am delighted with the way we escaped. At one stage we were three to one down and it is a big difference to be behind two and a half to one and a half," said Montgomerie. "We need to fight back and win today's fourball session to get on equal terms going into the singles."

Montgomerie and Martin started well, going two-up through three holes. Yet Ishikawa, four times a winner as he romped away with the Japanese Order of Merit in 2009, and Oda, who had two tournament victories of his own last year, reeled off four birdies in eight holes to take control of the match.

Back-to-back birdies at the island-green eighth and the ninth, where Ishikawa chipped in from 25 yards, were key to the victory at Amata Spring Country Club.

The Japanese duo wrapped up the contest 3&2 with an unlikely half at 16 after Ishikawa lost a ball in the bushes. Thai pair Prayad Marksaeng and Thongchai Jaidee beat Henrik Stenson and Simon Dyson 3&1. Robert Karlsson and Alexander Noren overcame Charlie Wie and Liang Wenchong 4&2, before Hanson and Kjeldsen took the vital half in the final match.

Irish Independent

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