MARC Warren helped Europe avoid a whitewash in the opening session as Jose Maria Olazabal admitted his side had left themselves with “little room for manoeuvre” in the Royal Trophy in China.
Helped by holing a bunker shot at the par-5 eighth, Warren joined forces with Englishman David Howell, this year’s Dunhill Links winner, to record a 2 and 1 victory over China’s Liang Wenchong and Wu Ashun.
But it was the sole highlight for Olazabal on the first day’s play at Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou as Asia, led by YE Yang, took a 3-1 lead in their bid to hang on to the silverware.
Sent out first by their captain, Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher lost to Thai pair Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat by 5 and 3. Following a good opening drive from his partner, Gallacher’s attempt to reach the par-5 first in two bounced off the rocks on to the fairway and the hole was eventually halved in birdie-4s.
But that was about as good as it got for the Scottish pair as the in–form Thai duo rattled off three more birdies in the next five holes and found themselves four up as Gallacher lost a ball in the trees on the sixth hole before Lawrie followed him into the undergrowth after heading back to the tee.
Kiradech’s putter was proving red hot and, after the Scots finally won a hole with a birdie on the 11th, the newly–crowned Asian Order of Merit champion struck a killer blow by sinking a 40-footer for an eagle on the long 14th. It was all over on the next hole, as Lawrie and Gallacher conceded when their opponents were left with two putts to win the match, and Asia had secured the first point.
Japanese duo Hiroyuki Fujita and Ryo Ishikawa then beat Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger 3 and 2 before K.T. Kim and Kim Hyung-Sung of Korea put Asia’s third point on the board with a 4 and 2 win over Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen and Spain’s Alvaro Quiros.
Warren played his part in Europe’s only success, starting when he hit a booming opening drive down the fairway to pave the way for a winning birdie as Howell rolled in a six-footer. The Scot then holed a 12-footer for a winning birdie at the fifth, produced a piece of magic to hole a bunker shot on the long eighth when his ball looked hopelessly plugged then followed up with another winning birdie on the ninth.
“Obviously it was a bad day for us, and we certainly didn’t expect to be this far behind after the first session,” admitted Olazabal. “We don’t have much room for manoeuvre – we really have to go for it from now on.”
In today’s fourballs, Lawrie and Gallacher were up against Jaidee and Aphibarnrat again, with Warren and Howell also facing the same opponents, though this time in the second match. Olazabal mixed up his other two pairings, sending Olesen out with Wiesberger (against Ishikawa and Fujita) and pitting big-hitters Colsaerts and Quiros against K.T. Kim and Kim Hyung-Sung.