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Asians out to prove Royal Trophy win not a fluke
January 6, 2010

Asia are determined to retain the Royal Trophy after a shock victory over Europe last year proved Asian golfers were a force to be reckoned with, says captain Naomichi Ozaki.

Ozaki ended a run of two straight defeats to lead Asia to a stunning 10-6 win last time, a victory he says his team can replicate.

“I want to defend the title, I want each of my players to play well for the team and if we do that, we can show the world that Asian golf is getting stronger and stronger,” he told Reuters on Tuesday.

“We want to prove it and make this happen. My experience on the winning team has given me confidence, I know what to do and I have my strategy.”

Ozaki has recalled five players, including young Japanese phenomenon Ryo Ishikawa, U.S. PGA player Charlie Wi of South Korea and Thai duo Prayad Marksaeng and Thongchai Jaidee, who were the only players to win all their matches last year.

He said his pairings will be based on national lines, with Indian, Thai and Japanese playing together. Wi and former Asian Tour champion Liang Wenchong of China are likely to link up.

Ozaki said stealing the title from a team that had won five of the last seven Ryder Cups was a huge achievement for Asian golf and his players had their hearts set on winning again.

“That week was one of the greatest I have every experienced,” said Ozaki, who hinted he would give up the captaincy after Asia were thrashed by Europe in 2007.

“All members of the Asian team had the motivation to win. We’ve never won a tournament before and their mentality was very strong. It was the most exciting moment of my career, to share this happiness with the players.

“I think the players felt the same way. I want to see the same thing happen, I think we can do it,” he said.

Ozaki, who enjoyed 32 wins on the Japan Tour as a player, said he was not intimidated by his European counterpart, Colin Montgomerie, who is widely regarded as one of the Ryder Cup’s best performers.

The charismatic 53-year-old said Montgomerie could get more than he bargained for by opting to both play for and captain a side in a matchplay contest where tactics and astute judgement can make all the difference.

“Everyone knows Monty is a great player, he has won so many tournaments and it will be first time for him to be a captain, and at the Ryder Cup,” he said.

“But a playing captain will be difficult, you have to focus on your team and focus on the play. I’m not sure how he will be able to do that, it will be difficult for Monty.”

The Royal Trophy takes place at the Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi, east of Bangkok, from Jan. 8-10.

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