Fantastic fight-back earns Europe Royal Trophy glory


The European golf team staged a tremendous and stunning fight-back to seize the Royal Trophy from their stunned Asian counterparts, as an incredible late rally saw them defy overwhelming odds to complete an 8½–7½ victory at the Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou, China last Sunday.

Jose Maria Olazabal’s team trailed by two points heading into the final session, and then found themselves facing a seemingly insurmountable 7–3 deficit as Thai stars Kiradech Aphibranrat and Thongchai Jaidee romped to victory in the first two singles matches.

The European Team – winners of the seventh edition of the Royal Trophy.The European Team – winners of the seventh edition of the Royal Trophy.

But the Europeans did not lose another match.  They won five of the last six singles and halved the other to turn the contest on its head, leaving Y.E. Yang and his players looking on in shocked disbelief.

The most incredible transformation came in the match involving David Howell – twice a Ryder Cup winner – and Japan Golf Tour Order of Merit runner–up H.S. Kim.  Kim was three up with four holes to play, after covering the opening stretch of holes in an eye–catching five under par.  But Howell won every one of those remaining holes to take the match one up, and suddenly the tide had turned in Europe’s favour.

The amazing climax that followed merely continued the Royal Trophy’s growing reputation for producing edge of the seat excitement.  Asia triumphed in a play–off after an 8–8 tie last year, and Europe staged an even more amazing fight-back to win the 2011 Royal Trophy after entering the singles trailing 6–2.

Nicolas Colsaerts clinched the final match to secure the European victory.Nicolas Colsaerts clinched the final match to secure the European victory.

But even Olazabal admitted he had not seen Europe’s remarkable change in fortunes coming this time, and that view must have been shared by everyone at the Dragon Lake Golf Club last weekend.

The European Captain commented: “I think the boys achieved something truly extraordinary today, and I can only thank them for giving me the last trophy I was missing, after I won both the Ryder Cup and the Seve Trophy in the past.

Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee strikes for Asia at the Royal Trophy.Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee strikes for Asia at the Royal Trophy.

“But I have to say I had no idea it would turn out this way until the final hour or hour and a half of play.  I must admit I had my doubts, especially after we lost the first two points in the singles and found ourselves trailing by four.

“The Asian team is a very strong one, and all of my players will have even more respect for their abilities even though we won in the end.

“I know it will be tough for them to take this defeat, but they can be proud of the way they played, and we know they will make it even more difficult when we come back to defend this trophy next year.  But all I can say about my eight guys is that they are all great battlers, and they never know when they are beaten.

Team Asia’s Fujita finds himself in a spot of trouble.Team Asia’s Fujita finds himself in a spot of trouble.

“For me the turning point was when David turned his match around so dramatically.  You don’t expect to get anything out of a match like that when you are three down so close to the end, and to get a full point seemed to inspire everyone.

“I think you learn a lot about yourself in adversity, and what these guys learned is that they can still triumph over all the odds.  I can only thank them again for making my job so easy.”

The Spanish golfing legend should have known Europe never know when they are beaten – after all, he was in charge when they produced the greatest Ryder Cup comeback of all time last year.  In that event they overturned a 10–6 lead going into the singles, completing the ‘Miracle of Medinah’ by charging to a 14½–13½ victory.

But Ollie said he had an inkling that Ryder Cup victory could happen after Europe grabbed some much–needed momentum with two victories towards the end of the second day.  This time they were still on the back foot for the first half of the singles session.

Needing just one and a half more points for victory after their Thai duo had powered to emphatic victories – or a point to force another play–off – Asia simply folded.  They managed just one half from the remaining six matches, and that came courtesy of a three–putt bogey from Alvaro Quiros on the final green!

Asia Captain Y.E. Yang looked shell–shocked as he remarked: “It hurts to lose like that, and it feels pretty shocking to know we are not going to take the Royal Trophy away with us.

Captain Olazabal (right) talks tactics during the final day at Dragon Lake Golf Club.Captain Olazabal (right) talks tactics during the final day at Dragon Lake Golf Club.

“My players tried hard and they all did their best, but the European team seemed to get stronger as the competition went on.

“But I can promise you that we all feel like we will learn from our mistakes and next year we will come back stronger.”

The Royal Trophy itself will also come back stronger in 2014, after the seventh edition – and the first to be played in China – proved it deserves its place as one of the great showpiece events on the golfing calendar.