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Olazabal calls on European Tour to back Royal Trophy

Spanish golfer Jose Maria Olazabal acknowledges the audience's applause after receiving the 2013 Prince of Asturias award for Sports from Sp
Spanish golfer Jose Maria Olazabal acknowledges the audience's applause after receiving the 2013 Prince of Asturias award for Sports from Sp

(Reuters) - Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal has criticized the European Tour's decision to launch the EurAsia Cup team match play event next year and said they should have re-established ties with the Royal Trophy.

Olazabal is captaining Europe in the seventh edition of the ongoing Royal Trophy matchplay event, which was launched in 2006 by his former Ryder Cup team mate and compatriot Seve Ballesteros and is backed by the Japan Golf Tour and China Golf Association (CGA).

The European Tour supported the venture before dropping it and then opted to launch a similar tournament in Malaysia next year with the Asian Tour, which used to host CGA tournaments before the Chinese opted to side with the rival OneAsia Tour.

"I know the European Tour sanctioned this event for two years and then a split occurred for some reason," Olazabal said in a statement released by the Royal Trophy on Saturday.

"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 organizers are keen to resolve this issue, and I would call on both sides to sit down and sort this thing out."

The Royal Trophy is being staged in China for the first time after Brunei hosted it last year and Thailand for the first five.

While the inaugural Royal Trophy boasted famed major winners Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam as well as then world number 12 David Howell, Swede Henrik Stenson and Ireland's Paul McGinley, the current edition lacks the same gloss.

Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee is the best ranked player competing in China at world number 46, while Howell is back but now number 93. Spaniard Alvaro Quiros is the worst ranked of the 16 players at 278.

Thongchai will be team captain for the inaugural EurAsia Cup in March, but Olazabal thinks the new tournament is not necessary and European Tour chief George O'Grady should focus on finding new full field strokeplay events instead.

"We do not need another Asia v Europe match involving a maximum of twenty players when we already have a well-established Royal Trophy," said the twice U.S. Masters champion.

"But we do need more full field events, and I know other players feel the same way," he added.

The biennial EurAsia Cup will be held over three days at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur from March 27-29 with Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez playing and captaining Europe.

Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and world number 26 Jamie Donaldson of Wales, Frenchman Victor Dubuisson ranked 32 and Spain's world number 35 Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano have already committed to playing.

Four more players will qualify for the European team via the world rankings, while the Asia side will feature Thongchai and the leading four players from the Asian Tour order of merit, the top three available from the world rankings and two captain's picks.

"Our relations with players from Malaysia, China, India, Thailand, Korea and Japan have been important to us for many years," O'Grady said last month at a promotional event for the new tournament which has been backed by the Ballesteros family.

"We see the development of the EurAsia Cup as a further commitment by us to assist in the development of golf throughout the region and to strengthening one of The European Tour's most important partnerships."

(Writing by Patrick Johnston, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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