Europe fights back to win Royal Trophy
Black Mountain Golf Club, Hua Hin (Thailand) – 09 Jan 2011
Europe ruled Sunday’s singles matches to produce an unlikely comeback over Asia and defend its Royal Trophy title with a 9-7 victory at the Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin (Thailand).
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.
Asia needed 2 1/2 points from the eight singles matches to clinch the win but the Europeans held them to just one, winning six of the eight matchups with the other two all square.
Asia had led 6-2 going into the final day after sweeping the fourball matches Saturday.
Colin Montgomerie hailed his team’s incredible Royal Trophy triumph as one of the greatest days in the history of European golf.
The Europeans staged an amazing fight-back after going into the Singles trailing 6-2, winning the session seven-one without losing a single match.
That earned them a highly unlikely 9-7 victory, and Montgomerie admitted he had rarely witnessed such drama on the golf course.
He explained: We all said it was a glorious achievement to win five-and-a-half points out of six on the Sunday of the last Ryder Cup.
And quite rightly, because it was a remarkable performance, and it showed that you should never count a European team out in any situation.
To not lose a single match out of eight is truly remarkable. Every one of my players contributed to our success in overturning an extremely daunting deficit, and emerging with a fantastic victory.
I said after the Four-balls that if we played to our potential we still had a chance, because none of us – not one – played anywhere near our potential on day two.
This time we got the momentum early on, and it snowballed to such an extent that the scoreboard was awash with European blue. I am a very proud captain and a very happy player after this win.
Asian Captain Joe Ozaki was almost lost for words as Asia’s commanding advantage slipped away under a tidal wave of European birdies, and several of his players had to fight back tears.
Captain Ozaki commented: I expected the European team to come back hard at us, and it was never going to be easy to get the points we needed.
As captain and as a Japanese man I have to take full responsibility for this defeat. I never thought it would be an easy win today – I realise how hard it is to win any match play event. Anything can happen, and it did not go our way.
I know how hard it is to get the Singles order right, but you have to give credit to the European team for playing so well. But this defeat is difficult to take.
I have had regrets ever since I accepted the role as Asian Captain because you can never expect to get everything right. I don’t know if I will be Captain again next year – this is not the best time to talk about that.
Europe had the perfect start, as Peter Hanson – the only player doubling up after also playing on the winning Ryder Cup team in October – crushed China’s Liang Wen-chong in the opening Singles.
Liang was one of Asia’s most impressive performers over the first two days, winning both of his matchers alongside Noh Seung-yul. And he was quickly two up with birdies at the first two holes.
But Hanson proved irresistible after that, winning nine of the next ten holes, six of them with birdies, to claim a morale-boosting 7&6 win.
That had the desired effect, with Rhys Davies beating Ryo Ishikawa 4&3, and showing why he is regarded as a putting genius by sinking a 45-footer for the first eagle of the competition on the long sixth hole.
Fredrik Andersson Hed also recorded an eagle in his 2&1 win over Yuta Ikeda. He smashed a five wood 252 yards onto the 13th green, and holed his putt from thirty feet.
Matteo Manassero may have been the youngest player in the competition at just 17, but he showed amazing maturity to beat Shunsuke Sonoda 2&1 – and with Henrik Stenson conjuring up a terrific birdie at the 18th to snatch a half from his titanic struggle with Noh, the scores were suddenly level at six-and-a-half apiece.
Montgomerie maintained his record of never losing a Singles match in European colours by beating Japan Order of Merit winner Kim Kyung-tae 2&1 to give his team the lead.
And it was left to Spaniard Pablo Martin to clinch victory for Europe, courtesy of a shot that would have done justice to the Royal Trophy’s founder, Seve Ballesteros.
His second shot had rebounded from a hospitality tent, but he executed his delicate chip over a bunker perfectly. It finished 18 inches from the hole, and he tapped it in for the birdie that gave him a one up win over Jeev Milkha Singh, taking Europe to the victory target of eight-and-a-half points.
Johan Edfors and Thongchai Jaidee traded blows in another high calibre contest in the final match.
When they stood on the final tee at the Black Mountain Golf Club, all three results were still possible. If Singh had won the 18th against Martin, Asia would have needed a point from Thongchai to win, or a half to force a sudden death play-off.
Martin’s brilliance changed that, but the competitive nature of the match continued, with Edfors making a birdie to force a half, and avoid becoming the only European to taste defeat on the final day.
It was a remarkable turnaround – to end another memorable Royal Trophy.
All articles and photos by (c) Bernard Metzger – WorldGolfDirectory.com