Crumbling Asia let Europe clinch Royal Trophy


HUA HIN – Spain’s Pablo Martin holed the winning putt as Europe capped a magnificent fightback by retaining the Royal Trophy with a dramatic 9-7 victory over Asia on Sunday.
Martin produced a magical flop shot to 12 inches at the 18th to defeat Jeev Milkha Singh of India by a hole in a glorious moment for European golf. It was also a personal triumph for captain Colin Montgomerie, coming just three months after he led Europe to Ryder Cup success over the United States at Celtic Manor.
Europe came into the final day trailing 6-2, but showed great character and commitment to win the singles 7-1 as Asia were crushed by a barrage of birdies at Black Mountain Golf Club. “To come back from 6-2 behind and not to lose a match today against the strongest Asian team we have seen in this event was a fantastic performance, and all credit to the players,” said a delighted Montgomerie.
Asia captain Naomichi “Joe” Ozaki said that the loss reflected the fickle nature of matchplay. “I did not think it was going to be easy to win today — I expected the European team would come back at us and try hard,” he said. “It just shows the difficulty of matchplay golf.
Ryder Cup star Peter Hanson of Sweden set the ball rolling with an emphatic 7 and 6 victory over China’s Liang Wen-chong, who had won both his matches for Asia. Liang started well with birdies at the opening two holes but Hanson hit back by winning five on the trot.
He finished off Liang in brilliant fashion by chipping in from forty feet for a birdie at the 12th. Welshman Rhys Davies kept the momentum going by picking up the second point with a comprehensive 4 and 2 victory over Japanese teenage sensation Ryo Ishikawa, and Fredrik Andersson Hed of Sweden further raised Europe’s hopes by downing Japan’s Yuta Ikeda 2 and 1.
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who holed the winning putt for Europe in 2006 and 2010, produced more heroics with a birdie at the final hole to square his match with Asian Tour number one Noh Seung-yul and pick up a crucial half point. The 19-year-old Noh was never behind against Stenson but failed to close the door on the vastly experienced world number 53, who drew Europe within a point of Asia.
Captain Montgomerie levelled the scores 6.5-6.5 with a 3 and 1 triumph over Japan Tour number one Kim Kyung-tae of Korea, the highest ranked player in the field. The 47-year-old Scotsman bounced back from a heavy defeat in the fourballs on Saturday — keeping alive his astonishing record of never having lost a singles in eight Ryder Cup and two Royal Trophy matches — to put Europe within touching distance of a famous victory.
Italy’s Matteo Manassero, wounded by two defeats to Ishikawa in foursomes and fourballs, restored his reputation by beating Japan’s Shunsuke Sonoda one up, to put Europe a point ahead and set up a dramatic climax.