Ballesteros targets Royal Trophy return

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The Independent Online

Seve Ballesteros says he plans to resume his Royal Trophy involvement next year, as the Europe and Asia teams prepare to stage the 2009 edition without him from Friday.

Ballesteros was initially slated to be Europe's captain for the upcoming continental showdown before the diagnosis of a brain tumor late last year that required multiple operations. He was replaced by Spanish compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal.

The four-time major winner wished both teams good luck in a message that was read out at a press conference today.

"My heart and thoughts are with you," Ballesteros' message read. "I will keep fighting to win my most difficult match. I hope to be with all of you next year.

"Special thanks to Oli for taking over the captaincy. He is not only a great champion but is also one of my best friends."

Olazabal said Ballesteros, who led Europe to the Royal Trophy title in 2006 and 2007, had urged another victory in the approaching event to be played at Amata Spring Country Club in Thailand's Chonburi province.

"The last instruction that I received from Seve was to win. Period," Olazabal said.

"Seve showed how good he was as a player and then as a captain. I will try to follow him. These eight guys are great players and I'm positive that we will win which is our goal.

"I have every confidence in my players. They have shown they can play great golf under the gun but we respect the Asian team. It will be a tough match."

Ireland's Paul McGinley, who had experience of winning for Europe in the Ryder Cup and Royal Trophy, will be a key component of the visiting team, which included English duo Oliver Wilson and Nick Dougherty, Sweden's Niclas Fasth and Johan Edfors, Paul Lawrie of Scotland, Spain's Pablo Larrazabal and Denmark's Soren Hansen.

The Asian team will be captained by Japan's Naomichi "Joe" Ozaki.

The Thai duo Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng will be the favorites for local galleries. The Asian team also includes South Korea's Charlie Wi and S.K. Ho, China's Liang Wenchong plus Japanese 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa and his compatriots Hideto Tanihara and Toru Taniguchi.

Asia has lost both previous editions of the Royal Trophy, 7-9 in 2006 and 3-1/2 to 12-1/2 in 2007, with Ozaki captain for the lopsided 2007 event.

"I was a bit disappointed from last time," Ozaki said. "This time I'm confident with my players. We have a strong team. I want revenge. I want to see my players show guts and fighting spirit."

The Royal Trophy, which was canceled in 2008 due to Thai mourning over the death of the king's sister, includes singles, foursomes and four-ball play.