Europe holds off Asia for Royal Trophy victory


CHONBURI, Thailand – Europe pulled out a victory against Asia Sunday in a tightly fought Royal Trophy matchplay event, with Henrik Stenson picking up a shot on the final hole to secure an 8- 1/2 to 7- 1/2 victory.

Stenson’s singles opponent Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand had a 15-foot putt on the 18th to take his match and square the three-day event at 8-8 to force a playoff, but the ball came up inches from the hole. The Swede, ranked 7th in the world, then sank a seven-foot putt to square the match and give Europe 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 captain 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 match 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 over the first five singles matches. Charlie Wie of South Korea, Koumei Oda of Japan and Jeev Milkha Singh of India won their matches respectively against Simon Dyson of England, Alexander Noren of Sweden and Robert Karlsson of Sweden.

But then Spain’s Pablo Martin and Denmark’s 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. Thomchai, inspired by the cheering crowds, retook the lead on the 17th hole with a clutch birdie putt from eight-feet away.

Knowing he needed to win the match to force a playoff between the two teams, Thomchai pushed hard on the 18th only to come up short. Stenson coolly made a 7-foot par putt after Thomchai missed his 15-foot par 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.”