Asia and Europe to tee it up
Bangkok will host Ryder Cup-style clash
Asia's best players are to take on the elite of Europe in a prestigious new team tournament that could trigger Ryder Cup-style rivalry between the two continents.
The Royal Trophy - to be played in Thailand - has been sanctioned by the Asian, Japan and European tours, clearing the way for the teams to field their strongest possible line-ups.
Five-time major winner Seve Ballesteros has been confirmed as Europe's non-playing captain.
The inaugural Royal Trophy will be held on January 5-8 at the new world-class Amata Spring Country Club in Bangkok. Each team will comprise eight players, led by a non-playing captain, competing in a series of 16 matches involving foursomes, four-ball and singles. Spanish legend Ballesteros, whose charisma and competitiveness helped turn the Ryder Cup into the most compelling viewing in world golf, hailed The Royal Trophy as a historic development for the sport.
'Team golf is something very special and incredibly exciting,' he said. 'Many of the great moments in my career have happened at the Ryder Cup. As a player and captain, these are truly unforgettable moments where you are competing not only for yourself, but also your teammates, your country and for the people of your continent. The feeling of pride is incredible and the tension is unimaginable.
'I'm delighted to captain the European team in this historic first edition of The Royal Trophy. It's great for me to see Europe and Asia, two continents of tremendous cultural diversity and history, coming together for this tournament.
'The Royal Trophy is a very meaningful development for our sport and I believe it will grow into one of the world's great sporting competitions.'
Ballesteros' agreement to lead the European team represents a huge boost to the tournament, according to Lincoln Venancio, managing director of event promoter Entertainment Group Limited. 'The potential of The Royal Trophy is immense,' said Venancio. 'We want to see it become a great competition for European and Asian golfers and fans. We are delighted to have Seve leading the European challenge.
'Golf is growing tremendously in Asia. The Asian team will be strong and competitive and is likely to feature players from a number of the major Asian golfing nations and territories such as Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, India and, naturally, the host country Thailand.'
The Asian, Japan and European Tours have underlined their support for the tournament by agreeing that six players on each team will be chosen according to each Tour's Order of Merit table and the world rankings, with the two remaining players on each side being captain's picks.
'Playing for your country is very special but qualifying to represent your continent is truly a tremendous honour,' said Asian Tour chief executive Louis Martin. 'Without question, our Asian team members will take the responsibility of representing this massive region very seriously and will perform to the very best of their ability. We will benefit from 'home course' advantage and the weather conditions in January in Bangkok should be perfect.'
Keith Waters, director of international policy for the European Tour, said: 'The European Tour is delighted to be part of this inaugural match with the 1997 European Ryder Cup captain, Seve Ballesteros, reprising that role in Thailand.'
Japan Golf Tour chairman Kosaku Shimada said: 'We are delighted to support The Royal Trophy - it is fantastic news for Asian golf. Asian players will rise to the challenge of going head to head with Europe's top golfers in a team environment and Asian fans will be treated to a tournament played with passion and intensity.'
The first two players to qualify for the European team will be selected according to the European Tour Order of Merit on October 31. The first two players for Asia will be chosen according to the official world rankings on November 7. The eligibility process will be completed on December 12 with the captain's picks to be announced one week later.