Asia claim Royal Trophy after playoff

STUNNING COMEBACK::Europe started the final day in the driving seat, but Asia fought back hard to force a playoff, where they held their nerve to win the decider

Reuters

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 - Page 20

Asia won the Royal Trophy by the tightest of margins yesterday, edging Europe in a sudden-death playoff to complete a stunning comeback in the team match play competition after the contest had finished level at 8-8.

South Korean Kim Kyung-tae rolled in a 15ft birdie putt on the 18th, the first playoff hole, as he and compatriot Yang Yong-eun saw off Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and Francesco Molinari of Italy in the fourball decider.

Asia’s second win in the sixth edition of the annual contest, loosely based on the Ryder Cup model, then drew a Gangnam Style celebratory dance from Japanese captain Joe Ozaki.

The defeat capped a disappointing day for Ozaki’s opposite number, Jose Maria Olazabal, with the Spaniard forced to pull out of his singles match before a ball was hit yesterday because of a neck injury.

With Olazabal’s withdrawal, each side added half-a-point to their overnight tally to leave the scores at 5-4 in Europe’s favor with 8.5 needed from the remaining seven singles matches to claim the title.

Asia, who had trailed after the opening day foursomes, began strongly yesterday as they quickly raced into the lead in a majority of the matches before the European players found their form.

Colsaerts recorded the first playing point of the day when he edged Korean Bae Sang-moon on the 18th hole.

Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano then holed an eight-foot birdie putt on the last, one of three he made over the final four holes, to tie with Kim.

However, the Asians fought back and Japan’s Yoshinori Fujimoto, who had been three down after 11 holes, rifled in a sharp approach to the last to overhaul German Marcel Siem and win one-up to give the hosts their first victory of the day.

China’s Wu Ashan should have added a second as he led Italian Edoardo Molinari by three after 13 holes, but the Italian fought back to claim a precious half point and make it 7-6.

Europe were ahead in two matches and were still on course for victory, but India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, who celebrated his 41st birthday on Saturday, rolled in two long putts on 16 and 17 to head down the last one-up on Miguel Angel Jimenez.

The Indian kept his nerve to get up and down for a par on the last after missing the green to record the narrow victory over the Spaniard and tie the scores at 7-7.

Asia then went ahead 8-7 as Yang beat Francesco Molinari in the final match two-and-one, the only game not to go down the last, but Henrik Stenson ensured a playoff would be required as he survived a late wobble to edge Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa 1-up on 18.

ISKANDAR JOHOR OPEN

AP, JOHOR, Malaysia

Sergio Garcia won the rain-shortened Johor Open yesterday, closing with an 11-under 61 for a three-stroke victory in the Asian Tour’s season-ending event.

The 32-year-old Spanish star finished at 18-under 198 at Horizon Hills for his second victory of the year and 24th international title. He also won the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship in August.

Garcia had the lowest final round by a winner in Asian Tour history. He birdied seven of the first nine holes to make the turn in seven-under 29, added birdies on 13 and 14 before a long rain delay, then returned to make it four in a row with birdies on 15 and 16.

American Jonathan Moore also shot a 61 to finish second, while Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee was third at 14 under after a 65.

Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant won the Asian Tour money title. He shot a 65 to tie for fifth at 11 under.

ALFRED DUNHILL

AFP, MALELANE, South Africa

Charl Schwartzel is set for a second successive crushing win in the space of a week after finishing the third round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship 10 strokes ahead of the pack on Saturday.

Following his Thai Championship victory by 11 strokes last week — the largest margin ever on the Asian Tour — the South African shot 10 birdies at the 6,671m Leopard Creek Estate.

A 21-under-par total of 195 puts him in a comfortable lead with one day to go at the second European Tour event of the 2013 season on the border of the world-famous Kruger National Park, where he won in 2005 and was runner-up four times.

Hot on his heels are Gregory Bourdy from France at 11-under-par, followed by four-time European Tour title winner Branden Grace from South Africa, Kristoffer Broberg from Sweden and Englishman Steve Webster, who are all in a share for third on 10-under-par 206.