Europe win Royal Trophy thriller
European captain Colin Montgomerie has received the perfect tonic ahead of this year’s Ryder Cup.
Colin Montgomerie received the perfect tonic ahead of this year’s Ryder Cup when his European team squared the hard-fought singles matches on Sunday on the final green of the final match to edge to a thrilling victory against Asia in the Royal Trophy matches in Thailand.
After falling 3½-1½ behind on the opening day of this three-round tournament, Europe hit back in Saturday’s four-balls to lead 4½ – 3½ heading into Sunday’ singles.
A determined Asia were not going to relinquish the trophy lightly, however, and threatened to force a first-ever play-off at the tournament as they trailed by just one point with one match remaining.
But, after Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee bogeyed the last, Swede Henrik Stenson kept his cool to make par from six feet to halve the match and secure an 8½ – 7½ win for Europe.
“It was an honour to captain the team. I said at the start of the week the competition would be close,” said European skipper Montgomerie, who for the first time in the tournament’s history included himself as a player.
“It was fitting that in the fourth edition of the tournament it came down to the last match, last green and last putt.”
“We came here with a strong team and it was very, very close.
“All credit to my team for fighting. They all contributed at least a point out there this week and we did great.
“It is a very important year for European golf and this has been a good start for us and we hope to build on this throughout the year.”
Montgomerie had opted to include himself as a player as well as captaining the team in order to get a closer look at potential picks for his Ryder Cup team in October.
But the eight-time Order of Merit winner certainly played his part in the victory as he drew upon his vast experience of matchplay golf to keep his cool against Liang Wen-chong on Sunday, matching the Chinese number one’s birdie on the last to ensure the game finished all square.
Koumei Oda claimed an unexpected point for the hosts with a dominant 5&3 win over Alexander Noren before Jeev Milkha Singh defeated Sweden’s Robert Karlsson 2&1.
But wins for Peter Hanson, Pablo Martin and Soren Kjeldsen meant it was down to the final match between Stenson and Thongchai to determine the outcome.
Stenson was three down after nine holes but the world number seven battled back to level matters with three holes remaining.
However, a play-off seemed certain when Asia number one Thongchai coolly sank a birdie putt from eight feet on the 17th to go one up.
The Thai’s putt for par on the last shaved the lip before Stenson holed from seven feet to make par and secure the victory for Europe.
The performance of his team will give Montgomerie reason to be optimistic for the coming year as he now focuses his attention on assessing potential picks for his team at Celtic Manor.
“I had seven potential clients here and we got on great,” he said.
“I think we on the European Tour do as it is like a big family. We travel together, stay in the same hotels together and obviously play together.
“I just happen to be leading this particularly fantastic group of young talent coming into the Ryder Cup.
“There are a number of great, talented golfers in Europe and for the first time I really feel that we have a fantastic wealth of talent and we have just witnessed that this week.”
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