HUA HIN, THAILAND // Asia seized the upper hand in the Royal Trophy after thrashing Europe in today's fourballs to snatch a 6-2 lead and leave the holders with a mountain to climb on the final day.
Asia wrestled control of the competition with some precision putting to earn wins in all four matches against some out-of-sorts European pairings who never found their feet and now face a monumental challenge in the singles.
Europe's player-captain Colin Montgomerie will need wins from six of his eight players in Sunday's singles just to secure a play-off, while Asia can lift the trophy for a second time with two and a half points.
The teams were tied 2-2 after day one. Liang Wenchong and Noh Seung-yul led the Asian charge with a confident 5&4 win that left Montgomerie and putting phenomenon Rhys Davies in the shade for most of the round at the Black Mountain course in Hua Hin.
Birdies eluded the European pair after the sixth hole as the Asians forged ahead, opening up a four-stroke lead soon after the turn that Montgomerie and Davies stood no chance of undoing.
"The 11th hole was where it happened, we went four up and the pressure was off after that," Liang said. "I'm happy to be playing with Noh. He played well today."
The fifth and sixth holes proved to be the turning points for Asia, with three of the four pairings carving out leads of two strokes or more as cracks started to appear in the European effort on the greens.
Japanese duo Ryo Ishikawa and Shunsuke Sonoda were always in command in their 3&2 win over Matteo Manassero and Pablo Martin, with a cool-headed Ishikawa notching three straight birdies that helped put the Asians three strokes ahead by the seventh.
"So far, so good and tomorrow's going to be a great day," said Ishikawa. "I'll need to be at my best."
"We have good teamwork," Sonoda added. "If I missed, he (Ishikawa) didn't, and when he missed, I didn't."
Europe tried desperately to reduce the deficit but the Asians gave little away in the final holes to shut their opponents out.
Thongchai Jaidee, who has played in all five editions, recovered from a shocking first day and birdied six times, holing twice from off the greens.
He paired up with the impressive Yuta Ikeda, who chalked up eight birdies to reverse Friday's drubbing by Peter Hanson and Fredrik Andersson Hed with a 3&1 win.
Royal Trophy stalwarts Johan Edfors and Henrik Stenson, who holed Europe's winner last year, were uninspiring for a second successive day against Kim Kyung-tae and Jeev Milkha Singh.
Europe's woeful day was compounded when Edfors let slip an easy chance to take a half point when he missed a simple three-foot put on the 17th.
Draw for the singles matches (Asian names first)
Liang Wen-chong (CHN) v Peter Hanson (SWE) Noh Seung-Yul (KOR) v Henrik Stenson (SWE) Yuta Ikeda (JPN) v Fredrik Andersson Hed (SWE) Ryo Ishikawa (JPN) v Rhys Davies (WAL) Shunsuke Sonoda (JPN) v Matteo Manassero (ITA) Kim Kyung-Tae (KOR) v Colin Montgomerie (SCO) Jeev Milkha Singh (IND) v Pablo Martin (ESP) Thongchai Jaidee (THA) v Johan Edfors (SWE)