Asia crumbles as Europe claims Royal Trophy
HUA HIN, Thailand – Colin Montgomerie just continues to add to his captain legacy.
Europe produced an astonishing act of escapology to retain the Royal Trophy on Sunday under the most dramatic circumstances.
Asia looked poised for victory after it swept Saturday's fourballs session. But trailing 6-2 and seemingly down and out heading into the final-day singles, Montgomerie's men conjured an unlikely comeback.
2011 Royal Trophy - Asia vs. Europe
Europe, led by captain Colin Montgomerie, defeated Asia in the 2011 Royal Trophy match play event in Hua Hin, Thailand, at Black Mountain Golf Club.
Peter Hanson (SWE) beat Wen-chong Liang (CHN) 7&6
Henrik Stenson (SWE) halved with Seung-yul Noh (KOR)
Fredrik Andersson Hed (SWE) beat Yuta Ikeda (JPN) 2&1
Rhys Davies (WAL) beat Ryo Ishikawa (JPN) 4&2
Matteo Manassero (ITA) beat Shunsuke Sonoda (JPN) 1-up
Colin Montgomerie (SCO) beat Kyung-tae Kim (KOR) 3&1
Pablo Martin (ESP) beat Jeev Milkha Singh (IND) 1-up
Johan Edfors (SWE) halved with Jaidee Thongchai (THA)
Asia needed 2½ points from the eight singles matches Sunday to clinch the win but the Europeans held them to just one, winning six of the eight matches to claim a 9-7 victory at the Black Mountain Golf Club.
The Asian team players appeared shell-shocked while their captain Naomichi “Joe” Ozaki was left shaking his head in disbelief as the drama unfolded.
"With the score we had by Saturday, I ... didn't expect to lose," Ozaki said. "But I realized the difficulty of match play. It could change very fast."
While the honor of securing the winning point fell to Pablo Martin of Spain, the foundation for the comeback was laid by Peter Hanson of Sweden.
In the lead-off match, Ryder Cup player Hanson lost the first two holes to China's Wen-chong Liang but then won nine of the next 10 holes to post a 7&6 victory.
"It's been a good day for me," Hanson said. "Liang's early birdies really woke me up to play my best. It was always tough to play the first match. And I needed to win my point get some blue up here early to help the rest of the team."
On the scoreboard, it was a sea of blue as the Asian players struggled to keep pace with the birdie barrage of their fired-up opponents.
Rhys Davies of Wales added the second point when he comfortably beat Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa whose compatriot Yuta Ikeda went down 2&1 to Fredrik Andersson Hed of Sweden.
Hope was still left for Asia as Korean Seung-yul Noh went to the 18th hole one-up on Swede Henrik Stenson. But Stenson, who secured the winning point for Europe last year, made a final-hole birdie to clinch an important half-point.
Appropriately, it was Montgomerie who delivered the point that drew the teams level at 6½ when he defeated Korean Kyung-tae Kim, 3&1. The Scot has never lost a singles match in 10 appearances for Europe – eight in the Ryder Cup and two in the Royal Trophy.
Italian teen Matteo Manassero then put Europe within touching distance of victory when he repelled the challenge of Japan's Shunsuke Sonoda.
However, it still looked like Jeev Milkha Singh of India and Jaidee Thongchai of Thailand might rescue the situation for Asia. Singh was all square with Martin after 17 holes, while Thongchai was one up over Johan Edfors of Sweden going to the 18th.
But a superb approach shot from Martin landed only 18 inches from the pin on the 18th green, and after Singh missed his birdie putt, the Spaniard made an easy tap-in to clinch the victory for Europe. Edfors then won the last hole to halve his match with Thongchai.
"It was a superb effort," said Montgomerie, who extended his own winning streak as European captain, having triumphed in the Royal Trophy and Ryder Cup last year.
"We had a lot to prove to ourselves after yesterday's dismal performance. We have done ourselves justice and I am extremely proud of our team."
Spencer Robinson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.