Guangzhou (AFP) — Former Ryder Cup-winning captain Jose Maria Olazabal has made an impassioned plea for the European Tour to throw its support behind the Royal Trophy team event that pits Europe against Asia.
Olazabal is dismayed that Tour chief executive George O?Grady has walked away from talks about sanctioning the event and announced plans for a rival Asia versus Europe competition.
While the inaugural EurAsia Cup ? jointly sanctioned by the European Tour and Asian Tour ? is due to take place in Malaysia in March, the Royal Trophy is this week being staged for the seventh time since its launch in 2006.
Played along the lines of the Ryder Cup, the Royal Trophy was founded by the late Seve Ballesteros, whose vision was to bring together the continents of Europe and Asia in a team matchplay event.
Currently the tournament — being held this year at China?s Dragon Lake Golf Club– is sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour Organisation, the China Golf Association and the OneAsia Tour.
Olazabal, who is serving as European captain for the third time, said there was a mood of frustration among the players, who feel the European Tour is in need of more full-field events rather than a “copycat” matchplay tournament.
“Here we are at the seventh edition of the Royal Trophy, and since my great friend Seve Ballesteros started this event in 2006 we have seen it grow amazingly,” the Spaniard said.
“I know the European Tour sanctioned this event for two years, and then a split occurred for some reason. But I do think they must sit down with the Royal Trophy people and work out their differences, because it is such an important issue.
“The Royal Trophy will continue even if it is not sanctioned by the European Tour, because it has great support from the Japan Golf Tour, the China Golf Association, and other important parties in Asia.
“But I know the organisers are keen to resolve this issue, and I would call on both sides to sit down and sort this thing out.