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Asia Win The Royal Trophy
December 16, 2012

Asia claimed their second Royal Trophy triumph in the most dramatic manner imaginable, as K.T. Kim’s birdie at the first play-off hole settled a breathless battle between two outstanding Teams.

The Asian team celebrate Gangam style
The Asian team celebrate Gangnam style

Ryder Cup hero Nicolas Colsaerts had a chance to keep the match alive, but his birdie putt slid agonisingly past the hole to spark joyous celebrations among the Asian contingent. The scenes of jubilation were spearheaded by Asian Captain Naomichi ‘Joe Ozaki’, who launched into a Gangnam-style dance around the 18th green. It was one more unforgettable image from a truly memorable Royal Trophy.

The fact that 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. 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 putt the pressure firmly back on the Europeans at The Empire Hotel & Country Club in the Sultanate of Brunei 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 Player-Captain José Maria Olazábal both offering their advice on how it might break.

It was a shame there had to be a loser after such a titanic struggle, but Colsaerts took defeat bravely. When his ball shaved the right hand side of the hole, he turned and immediately offered his congratulations to the Asian Team. It was hard to envisage an Asian victory when they were routed 3½ – ½ 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 Fourball session 3-1.

It was still a tall order for Asia against European opponents who have become accustomed to running away with the Singles. They overturned a 6-2 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’.

But the golf shoe was on the other foot this time, as Asia edged the Singles session 4 ½ – 3 ½ to level the scores at eight-all, taking the match into overtime. Captain Ozaki could not hide his delight at the outcome, saying: “I am so proud of all my players, but especially K.T. Kim. 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.”

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

“Then in the play-off, Nicolas hit two wonderful shots and was actually closer to the hole than K.T. Kim. 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.”

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