Ballesteros rates Royal Trophy a success
Although it is debatable whether there is a place on the calendar for yet another international team event, Severiano Ballesteros can definitely be marked down as a fan of the new Royal Trophy matchplay event.
"It was a great two days of competition and the European team played fantastic," said captain Ballesteros after his side scored a 9-7 victory over their counterparts from Asia in the inaugural event which finished in Bangkok on Sunday.
"The Asian team also showed a tremendous game and sportsmanship. Congratulations to the Asian team and (skipper) Massy Kuramoto.
"On this occasion we had a little more luck but at the end of the day golf is the real champion. This event is just the start and I think we are making history here."
It was the first time a combined Asian team had competed for a major prize in men's golf and they acquitted themselves well against a European contingent which included six-times major winner Nick Faldo and former U.S. Masters champion Ian Woosnam.
Ballesteros also carved out a slice of history for himself, achieving a unique hat-trick of Ryder Cup, Seve Trophy and Royal Trophy wins as captain.
But the game could be in danger of overdoing the concept of team golf.
In addition to the long-established Ryder Cup and World Cup, there has also been the recent emergence of the Presidents Cup and the Seve Trophy.
Ballesteros, however, has no doubts about the future of the Royal Trophy.
"I believe it will grow into one of the world's great sporting competitions," said the Spaniard.
The next four years are expected to be played in Bangkok with the event after that alternating between Europe and Asia.
The Royal Trophy, sanctioned by the European, Asian and Japanese tours, is sure to boost the profile of Asian players especially after the first match was such a closely-contested affair.
India's Arjun Atwal and Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand picked up two victories apiece on the treacherous Amata Spring Country Club course at the weekend.
The 32-year-old Atwal followed up his foursomes triumph alongside fellow Indian Jyoti Randhawa against Britain's David Howell and Kenneth Ferrie by easing past Faldo 3 and 2 in the last-day singles.
Thaworn, 39, was also a winner in the singles, edging out European Ryder Cup captain Woosnam 2 and 1 after he and compatriot Thongchai Jaidee caused heads to turn by demolishing Woosnam and Faldo 6 and 5 in the foursomes.
Ballesteros could have been forgiven for preparing his victory speech after Europe took a 6-2 lead into the final day.
But Asia's inexperienced line-up had other ideas, picking up five singles wins out of eight to take the match to the wire.
Japanese Kuramoto said: "For a moment it looked possible that we could upset Europe and our players grew in confidence.
"We proved that we could compete. We gave it our best but the Europeans did a bit better."
January 10, 2006