Europe beats Asia in Royal Trophy
CHONBURI, Thailand – Europe pulled out a victory against Asia on Sunday in a tightly fought Royal Trophy match play event, with Henrik Stenson picking up a shot on the final hole to secure an 8 1/2 to-7 1/2 victory.
Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand came up just short on a 15-foot putt at No. 18 that would have given him a win over Stenson, squared the three-day event at 8-8 and forced a playoff. The Swede then sank a 7-footer to square the match and give Europe a victory in the three-day event.
“All credits to my team for fighting. We all contributed at least one point this week,” European captain Colin Montgomerie said. “Congratulations to my team. Good start for European golf.”
Asia’s non-playing captain Naomichi “Joe” Ozaki praised the Europeans, but said he was “pleased” with his team’s performance. He said he remained convinced until the end the two teams would end in a playoff.
“Actually, I had a vision that Thongchai would make a putt on the 18th hole and we would go to the playoff,” Ozaki said. “Unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
The roller-coaster competition saw Asia take the early lead Friday, but fall behind after Saturday’s four-ball competition.
Asia entered the final day a point down, but appeared poised for a victory after claiming 3 1/2 points to 1 1/2 for Europe over the first five singles matches.
Charlie Wi, Koumei Oda and Jeev Milkha Singh won their matches respectively against Simon Dyson, Alexander Noren and Robert Karlsson.
But then Pablo Martin and Soren Kjeldsen won their matches, setting the stage for the final match.
Down by three after nine holes, Stenson fought back to even the match with three holes to play. Thongchai, inspired by the cheering crowds, retook the lead on the 17th hole with an 8-foot birdie putt.
“I was three down after 10 and I had to dig deep and really find something to make it even,” Stenson said. “I told the boys I wasn’t playing great, but said maybe I could find something if I had to – and I did.”