Strong European Team retains The Royal Trophy
14 Jan 2007 – World Golf Directory News
AMATA SPRING GOLF CLUB, Chonburi – After falling well behind in the first two days, Asia needed a miracle in the final round but the Europeans comprehensively took the singles and the trophy.
With Westwood and Clarke among a six-strong contingent of Ryder Cup stars in the eight man European team – including five of the players who overwhelmed the Americans at the K Club in September – Joe Ozaki and his Asian team were always going to be up against it.
And Europe rammed home the superiority they displayed to build a commanding 6 1/2 – 1 1/2 lead going into the singles by taking the final round of matches 6-2.
In fact, Asia had to wait until the 16th and final match to finally savour the taste of victory, as local hero Thongchai Jaidee delighted the big crowds with a 2&1 success over Niclas Fasth of Sweden.
That came long after Westwood had allowed Seve to star limbering up to lift the imposing Royal Trophy – weighing in at around 16 kilos – by rattling off a burst of four birdies in five holes to set up a 4&3 win over Toru Taniguchi in the opening singles match.
With Clarke second out, that paved the way for the emotional hero of Europe’s latest Ryder Cup romp to hole the winning putt – something Ian Woosnam tried to manuvere for him at the K Club, only for Henrik Stenson to get in first.
Clarke did manage to secure the half that gave Europe the eight points they needed to retain the Royal Trophy as defending champions, following their 9-7 success in the inaugural event last year.
But the big Ulsterman still managed to depart from the script. He kept his putter in his bag at the final hole, shaking hands with Prom Meesawat, after hitting his own ball to four feet and conceding his opponent’s putt from twenty feet above the flag.
Clarke commented: “I suppose that’s something a bit different. I will go down in the record books as the man who picked up the winning putt in the Royal Trophy, instead of being the man who holed the winning putt.
“I looked at him and asked if he would take the half, so we both picked our balls up. But I honestly don’t care who makes the winning putt – as long as it is a European player.
“It was one of those matches where you didn’t want to see a loser, a real good ding-dong battle played in a terrific spirit. I knew we only needed a half point to keep the Royal Trophy, and it wasn’t as if the result was in any doubt, otherwise we might have putted out.
“I’m delighted to have helped Europe retain the trophy here. I love the atmosphere and the feel of team golf. We’ve had great fun, but the competition has been pretty intense. We’ve all enjoyed the whole experience. The crowds and the organisation have been wonderful.”
The points continued to come thick and fast for Europe as Johan Edfors crowned a brilliant rookie display with his third victory, making him the top individual points scorer.
The Swede just beat Paul McGinley to the punch as the player to clinch over all victory, while fellow newcomer Anthony Wall and Robert Karlsson both rattled off decisive victories before Jaidee finally stopped the rot.
Korean ace Y.E.Yang matched Prom’s half, coming back from three down to halt Stenson’s winning Royal Trophy streak after five victories in a row. But that was the end of the good news for the Asian team.
Ballesteros insisted they could still be proud of their efforts – it was simply that they had come up against an unstoppable force.
The Americans would testify to that after losing by the same nine point margin as the Asians in each of the last two Ryder Cups.
Seve said: “”That was fantastic golf from the European side. These are Ryder Cup champions. They beat the Americans very badly, so this was not a surprise. The Asian team played very well, but we played much better.
“I think a couple of things made the difference. The Asian team did not have quite the experience that the Europeans had and our side played unbelievable golf. When they play like this, Europe is unbeatable.
“It was tough for Joe. But I think the Ryder Cup did it for Europe in helping to grow the game and I think the Royal Trophy will do the same for the Asians. It has been a fantastic tournament and it has a great future ahead.”
Ozaki admitted his first taste of team captaincy had been a sobering experience. He had expected a bumpy ride, but never imagined it would be this rough.
He said: “The European team has proved themselves by beating the Americans many times and they have so much more experience of this kind of golf. This is a still a big learning stage for the Asian boys.
“I realise now how difficult it is to win just one point, let alone the entire match, I was shocked to look at the results on the first day, and although we played better after that we still could not find a way to stop them.
“But we have already learned a lot from them and I want my boys to play a lot more with the Europeans so that they can improve. This was very, very tough.”
And Asian Tour champion Jeev Milkha Singh sounded a note of defiance as he insisted Asia will close the gap on their all-powerful opponents.
Singh has already shown Asian players can compete abroad by beating the finest players on the European Tour to win the showpiece Volvo Masters event in Spain.
He said: “We have to play more on the world stage to get more experience. Asian players are good enough to win anywhere in the world.
“We need to get out there and gain experience by rubbing shoulders with the best players in the world. The Asian players are great fighters, and they will come through.
Singles results: Lee Westwood beat Toru Taniguchi 4&3; Darren Clarke halved with Prom Meesawat; Paul McGinley beat Thaworn Wiratchant 2&1; Johan Edfors beat S.K.Ho 3&2; Henrik Stenson halved with Y.E.Yang; Anthony Wall beat Tetsuji Hiratsuka 4&2; Robert Karlsson beat Jeev Mikha Singh 3&2; Niclas Fasth lost to Thongchai Jaidee 2&1.
Match result: Europe 12 1/2, Asia 3 1/2
All articles and photos by (c) 2007 Bernard Metzger – WorldGolfDirectory.com