I’m a Player, You’re Our Captain

travel_index_550The Empire Hotel & Country Club (Sultanate of Brunei) – December 28, 2012 – Liang Wen-chong has told Joe Ozaki he must not even consider quitting as Asian Captain in the wake of his Team’s sensational Royal Trophy victory.

Oazaki revealed he might decide to go out at the top, after tasting defeat in three of his four previous Royal Trophy Matches, to make way for another Asian star.

But Liang, who made a big impact as Ozaki’s Vice Captain at The Empire Hotel & Country Club in the Sultanate of Brunei, insists he is not ready to take over yet, and feels Ozaki should retain his post.

He said: “I would like to thank Captain Joe Ozaki for giving me the opportunity to be part of such a great occasion.

“This was my fourth time in the Asian Team, time times as a player and once as Vice Captain – and if possible I would like my fifth time to be as a player again.

“I am only 34, and I feel I have at least eight or ten years left playing at a high level. Not being able to help the Team by hitting shots was the only part of my latest involvement that I did not enjoy.

“Being Vice Captain was all new to me and I have learnt a lot this week from Joe. It has been a very good experience and I can benefit a lot from it in the future.

“I want to say a big thank you to the whole Team. We did a great job to win the match.

“Of course, maybe one day I would like to be a Captain – but right now I want to be a good player more. I want to play more games and maybe look to be a Captain at a later stage.

“And Joe should not even think about giving up the position after such a great win. He is very popular with the players and he has gained a lot of experience since he first did this job five years ago.

“We all want him to be the Captain in 2013 – and we all want to play under his Captaincy in the match.”

Liang’s hunger to make the Team as a player again has been sharpened by speculation that the Royal Trophy may move to China in the next two years – the venues for the 2013 and 2014 editions of the Royal Trophy will be announced in February.

Liang added: “I feel that there are a lot of great courses in the south of China that could host this Event at this time of year.

“I am also sure there would be plenty of sponsors eager to be involved, and if it happens I would certainly try my hardest to play my way onto that Team.”

Royal Trophy organisers also hope Ozaki’s insistence that he is considering whether to hand over the reins will come to nothing.

He briefly considered standing down after Asia surrendered a 6-2 lead going into the Singles last year, and lost 9-7, but was wisely talked out of it. As the architect of a memorable victory – with Asia winning the Royal Trophy’s first sudden death play-off – he is more in demand than ever.

Ozaki commented: “Looking back what happened last year, I am even more pleased to be Captain of the winning Team.

“It was a very emotional moment when this match ended. I am very happy now.

“I decided that I was not going to do it any more when we lost last year’s match – but I only felt that way for one week.

“After a while I started thinking that I would like to feel that kind of atmosphere again. The temptation is always there to give someone else a chance, but maybe a week will be enough for me to get that same feeling again, and make me stay on once more.”

Ozaki has become synonymous with the Royal Trophy since he led Asia for the first time in 2007 – when his opposite number as captain was legendary Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, the Royal Trophy’s founder and inspiration.

Seve turned up with a Team packed with Ryder Cup stars such as Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Henrik Stenson, and Robert Karlsson.

They steamrollered their Asian opponents, winning 12 ½ – 3 ½, and Ozaki wondered whether he would be invited back. But he was in charge for the 2009 match, when Asia gained their only previous win, an emphatic 10-6 victory.

There was the heartbreak of losing out to Stenson’s ice-cool putt in 2010 when a play-off looked probable – and after the remarkable turnaround in 2011, no-one could resent Ozaki enjoying a change of fortune in another desperately close finish.

The Asian Captain added: “There have been so many conflicting emotions since I took over, so many highs and lows. But yes, I do love being Asia’s Captain at the Royal Trophy.

“I am fortunate to be able to select from so many great players, and in victory and defeat they have always given me everything I could ask for.

“They have made me very proud with their wonderful performance to beat a very strong European Team this time – and the whole Continent of Asia should be just as proud of them.”

The Royal Trophy Managing Director Lincoln Venancio said: “Captains Jose Maria Olazabal and Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki and Vice Captain Liang Wen-chong did a fantastic job.”

“It is clear that these were very two powerful Teams comprised of great champions and led by legendary Captains. This edition of the Royal Trophy surpassed all expectations and the Captains are to be commended for their leadership, sportsmanship and ability to inspire their respective Teams to play remarkable golf under testing circumstances,” concluded Lincoln Venancio.

The sixth edition of the Royal Trophy – Europe vs Asia Golf Championship was played at The Empire Hotel & Country Club in the Sultanate of Brunei on 14-16 December 2012. The continents competed in a series of 16 foursomes, four-ball and singles matches. The Royal Trophy Players’ Committee is comprised of Sir Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam OBE, José Maria Olazábal, Paul McGinley, Isao Aoki, Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki and Jeev Milkha Singh. The Royal Trophy is sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour Organization and is promoted internationally by Entertainment Group (Asia) Limited.

By Bernard Metzger and WorldGolfDirectory.com

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