Sports / Golf

Birdie in play-off bring Asia triumph for Royal Trophy

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-12-17 17:43

Bandar Seri Begawan - Asia claimed their second Royal Trophy triumph on Sunday, in the most dramatic way as Korean golfer K.T. Kim's birdie at the first play-off hole settled a breathless battle between two outstanding teams.

Ryder Cup hero Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium had a chance to keep Europe alive, but his birdie putt slid agonizingly past the hole to spark joyous celebrations among the Asian contingent. The scenes of jubilation were spearheaded by Asian captain Naomichi Joe Ozaki of Japan and Chinese vice-captain Liang Wenchong, who both launched into a Gangnam-style dance around the 18th green.

Birdie in play-off bring Asia triumph for Royal Trophy

Ryo Ishikawa of Japan watches his tee shot on the 4th hole during the final round of the Royal Trophy golf tournament between Asia and Europe in Bandar Seri Begawan, Dec 16, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

"I am so proud of all my players. It was a great Royal Trophy and a great way to finish. My congratulations to the European Team on a wonderful performance and to my players for a great victory," the 56-year-old Japanese could not hide his delight.

It was the Korean duo of Kim and Y.E. Yang who represented Asia in the competition's first sudden death play-off made Ozaki's impression of Korean rapper Psy even more fitting. The Koreans remained unbeaten in the first two days of sixth Royal Trophy played at The Empire Hotel & Country Club in the Sultanate of Brunei.

Kim showed no signs of nerves as he stood over his 15 footer, even though Colsaerts' ball was less than half the distance from the hole. And everything the big-hitting Belgian has done this year suggested he was virtually certain to make his own birdie.

But Kim's putt pressed firmly on the Europeans' back as his ball tracked unerringly towards the hole, and dropped dead centre. Colsaerts viewed his putt from every conceivable angle, with playing partner Francesco Molinari and European leader Jose Maria Olazabal both offering their advice.

It was a shame there had to be a loser after such a titanic struggle, but Colsaerts took defeat bravely. He turned and immediately offered his congratulations to the Asian Team when his ball shaved the right hand side of the hole.

It was hard to imagine an Asian victory when they were routed 0. 5:3.5 in the Foursomes matches on day one. But they pulled back to within a point of a European team containing six players with Ryder Cup experience by claiming the Fourballs session 3:1.

It was still a tall order against European opponents who have become accustomed to running away with the Singles. They overturned a 2:6 deficit by winning the Singles 7:1 at the 2011 Royal Trophy, and their final day comeback to overturn a 10:6 American lead at the Ryder Cup in September has been dubbed "The Miracle of Medinah".

Birdie in play-off bring Asia triumph for Royal Trophy

Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium tees off on the 16th hole during the Royal Trophy golf tournament between Asia and Europe in Bandar Seri Begawan, Dec 15, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

But the golf shoe was on the other foot this time, as Asia edged the Singles session 4.5:3.5 to level the scores at eight-all, taking the match into overtime.

Olazabal admitted his team were desperately disappointed, but said they could not have tried harder for him. "You saw how close this match was by the fact six of the seven Singles matches came down to the final hole," he added.

"Nicolas hit two wonderful shots and was actually closer to the hole than K.T. Kim in the play-off. The margins between victory and defeat are tiny, and I have told my players I am very proud of them and they should leave with their head held high," two-time Masters Champion winner Spaniard said.

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