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Asian Team announced for Royal Trophy

Asia have named a star-studded team to face Europe in the inaugural Royal Trophy at Amata Spring Country Club in Bangkok , Thailand from January 7-8, 2006 .

Thai stalwarts Thaworn Wiratchant and Thongchai Jaidee, and India 's Jyoti Randhawa, the top three finishers on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, earned their places in the Ryder Cup-style showdown alongside Japan 's Yasuharo Imano and Keiichiro Fukabori and Korea 's Hur Suk-ho, who finished amongst the top four of the Japan Golf Tour money ranking in its recent 2005 season.

India 's Arjun Atwal, who enjoyed a stellar season on the US PGA Tour this year, and Chinese ace Zhang Lian-wei complete a strong eight-man line-up as Asian team captain Massy Kuramoto's picks.

The eight Asian players have a combined 52 career victories on the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour.

"I am delighted to finalise our team which I believe is a very strong line-up," said Kuramoto, who is a legend of the game in Japan with 30 career victories.

"The eight players have produced some terrific golf over the past 12 months which is clearly reflected by their respective finishes on the Japan and Asian Tours Order of Merits. All the players are proven champions and I am confident we will put on a good show and challenge Europe for The Royal Trophy."

Spanish great Seve Ballesteros of Spain , a five-time Major champion, will captain the European team which will be announced in due course.

Asia and Europe will compete in a series of 16 matches involving foursomes, four-ball and singles on January 7 and 8. The Royal Trophy offers a total prize fund of US$1.5 million, with the winning team sharing $1 million and the runners-up sharing $500,000.

Imano, Fukabori and Hur, who finished second, third and fourth respectively on the Japan money list, have enjoyed impressive seasons, winning two titles each. Fukabori has eight career wins to his name and could well be one of Kuramoto's trump cards.

Much will also be anticipated from home town heroes Thaworn and Thongchai in The Royal Trophy. The 38-year-old Thaworn has enjoyed a spectacular season on the Asian Tour with a record four titles this year, and won his first Order of Merit crown.

Zhang, the first mainland Chinese player to feature in the US Masters, has enjoyed many great victories in matchplay competitions which earned Kuramoto's nod for one of his captain's picks.

Atwal, Asian number one in 2003, is also coming off a tremendous year on the US PGA Tour where he finished second twice and won close to US$1 million in total prize money.

"Zhang is a wonderful matchplay competitor. His has a strong liking for matchplay competitions and he has also enjoyed a good year in Asia ," said Kuramoto.

"Atwal is another class act and his success in the United States is no surprise. The two wildcards in our team will no doubt lend more weight in our challenge to lift the first Royal Trophy."

The first day of competition will see four fourball matches in the morning session, followed by another four matches of foursomes in the afternoon. The second day will see eight matches of singles.

The Royal Trophy is sanctioned by the Asian Tour, Japan Golf Tour Organisation and European Tour.

Asian Team : Thaworn Wiratchant (Tha), Thongchai Jaidee (Tha), Jyoti Randhawa (Ind), Yasuharo Imano (Jpn), Keiichiro Fukabori (Jpn), Hur Suk-ho (Kor), Arjun Atwal (Ind - captain's pick), Zhang Lian-wei (Chn - captain's pick)

December 14, 2005

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