Asia ponders Australian help for match against Europe

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CHIANG MAI, Thailand, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Australian golfers could be drafted in to boost the Asian team for their Royal Trophy challenge against Europe to prevent the event from being a one-sided affair, organisers told Reuters today.

Ryder Cup champions Europe have won both editions of the matchplay event so far, and in January 2007 crushed Asia 12-{ to 3-1/2, prompting organisers to consider following soccer's lead by allowing players from New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific islands to play in Asian events.

''It's a major decision, but the opinion of most parties involved is that it's a good idea,'' Lincoln Vernancio of organisers Entertainment Group told Reuters by telephone.

''The Asians are improving and they will continue to do so but if Australians and New Zealanders were on board, the team would be strengthened considerably, there's no question.'' A decision on whether to invite the likes of Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy of Australia, former world number one Fijian Vijay Singh and Major winner Michael Campbell of New Zealand is expected over the next few weeks.

NON-ASIAN LIMIT The European teams in 2006 and 2007 included Ryder Cup winners Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Henrik Stenson, Niclas Fasth and Lee Westwood, in addition to former greats Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo.

''It's all about the timing. It might be too late now, so we may have to look at it for future competitions,'' Vernancio said, adding that a limit would be placed on the number of non-Asians included in the eight-man team.

The Royal Trophy takes place annually and will be held in Thailand until 2010 before alternating between the two continents.

Next year's competition features foursomes, four-ball and singles matches, and will be held at the Amata Springs Country club in Chonburi, east of Bangkok, from Jan. 11-13, organisers announced today.

REUTERS BJR VC1540

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