Europe withstood a spirited fightback from the Asian team to win the inaugural Royal Trophy 9-7 after a dramatic final day at Amata Spring Country Club, Bangkok, Thailand.
Swede Henrik Stenson secured the winning point, beating Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee 5 and 4 in the anchor match, after the Irish duo of Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell put the first two points on the board for Europe.
For European captain Seve Ballesteros the win sealed a remarkable hat-trick as he has now led Europe to victory in The Ryder Cup, The Seve Trophy and now The Royal Trophy.
“I am really very happy with the final score today,” said Ballesteros. “It has been a great two days of competition and the European Team played fantastic. The Asian team also showed a tremendous game and sportsmanship.
“Congratulations to the Asian team and Massy Kuramoto. On this occasion we had a little more luck but at the end of the day golf is the real champion. This event is just the start and I think we are making history here.”
After dominating the opening day, Europe took a 6-2 lead into the final day singles but victory was far from a formality as Asia threw everything at the European players.
Europe needed only two and a half points to win the trophy but at one point Asia were up in six, level in one and down in only one match. Europe rallied, with McGinley leading the way by coming back from two down against Zhang Lian Wei to win 2 and 1.
McDowell followed suit in bettering Jyoti Randhawa 3 and 2 to ensure both Irishmen came away from the contest with three wins out of three.
“I spoke to Seve as I came off the ninth and I had just lost two holes on the bounce to go back to one up,” said McDowell. “Seve said things weren’t looking too great on the golf course. I realised my match would be important and every point we put on the board was going to be big but I didn’t realise how close it was going to be in the end.”
With David Howell losing a closely fought tussle in the top match to Japan’s Yasuharu Imano on the final hole and Asia dominating the middle order, Stenson’s match became vital.
Jaidee was cheered all the way by the huge crowds which swarmed over course but had no answer to the power of Stenson as the Swede pulled away after the turn for a comfortable victory. Like McDowell and McGinley, Stenson finished the week with a 100% record.
“Playing Jaidee was always going to be a tough match and I am pleased with the way I played,” said Stenson. “I turned it around on the 11th and 12th and 13th so won three straight holes there and it was done and dusted with five holes to go.”
It was a brave effort from the Asian team as red dominated the board with Arjun Atwal beating Nick Faldo 3 and 2, Thaworn Wiratchant defeating Ian Woosnam 2 and 1 and Keiichiro Fukabori overcaming Thomas Bjorn 4 and 3. Kenneth Ferrie was also beaten 2 and 1 by Sk Ho as Asia took the session 5-3 but in the end it was not quite enough as Europe emerged triumphant.
“I was happy to see the boys fight back after yesterday,” said Asian team captain Masahiro Kuramoto. “For a moment it looked possible that we could upset Europe and our players grew in confidence. We proved today that we could compete. We gave it our best but the Europeans did a bit better.”