Team Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal (centre) poses with his team after they clinched an 8½-7½ victory -- the fifth time in seven editions of the Royal Trophy that Europe has won, at the Dragon Lake Golf Club’s Asian Games Course in Guangzhou, southern China’s Guangdong province, yesterday. RIGHT: David Howell of England reacting after missing a birdie putt on the 17th hole during the singles match of the Royal Trophy.
GUANGZHOU: Former Ryder Cup-winning captain Jose Maria Olazabal masterminded another miraculous European fightback as his team celebrated a remarkable Royal Trophy triumph in China.
Seemingly down and out, Europe stunned their Asian rivals with a startling late surge, reminiscent of the continent’s Ryder Cup success against America at Medinah last year and at the 2011 Royal Trophy.
In a gripping climax at Guangzhou’s Dragon Lake Golf Club, the honour of securing the winning point went to Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, who held off home favourite Liang Wenchong on the final green in the final match to clinch an 8½-7½ victory -- the fifth time in seven editions of the Royal Trophy that Europe has won.
Spaniard Olazabal, twice previously a losing Royal Trophy captain, said: “Our players did something extraordinary today. We knew it was going to be difficult. I thank all eight of these fantastic guys. I’m proud of the way all of the team played.”
For his part, Asia captain Y.E. Yang was clearly stunned by the defeat.
“I congratulate Europe for an outstanding comeback. It was a great tournament but unfortunately a shocking loss for us,” he said.
“I never expected this because we were so far in front. The loss is a huge blow and a big surprise. Hopefully we’ll learn from the mistakes we made and return stronger next year.”
Trailing 5-3 overnight, Europe appeared doomed to lose when the Thai duo of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Thongchai Jaidee maintained their 100 per cent winning records, claiming the first two of eight singles contests to extend the home team’s advantage to 7-3.
But with their backs firmly against the wall, the Europeans then rose to the challenge while the Asians wilted.
Europe collected 5½ of the final six points on offer with Marc Warren, David Howell, Thorbjorn Olesen, Bernd Wiesberger and Nicolas Colsaerts all winning their matches and Alvaro Quiros halving with Kim Kyung-Tae.
Scotsman Warren began the comeback, holding his nerve to two-putt the final hole for par and secure a one-up victory against Ryo Ishikawa, who held his head in his hands after duffing his chip from the back of the green.
Howell then took centre stage. From three-down with four to play, the Englishman won 15 and 16 with birdies and 17 and 18 with pars as Kim Hyung-Sung collapsed under the strain.
“David’s win was the turning point. After that everything looked possible,” said Olazabal.
With Olesen and Wiesberger recording comfortable 3&2 successes over Wu Ashun and Hiroyuki Fujita respectively, the contest was squared at 7-7.
Kim Kyung-Tae made a brave par at 18 to finish all square with Quiros, leaving the destiny of the Royal Trophy in the hands of Liang and Colsaerts, beaten in a play-off that determined the outcome in Brunei last year.
Level through 14, Colsaerts edged ahead with a birdie at 15. The next two holes were halved before the Belgian sealed the deal with a par on 18.
“We came back from the dead. It was incredible,” he said.