European team members gather for a group photo around the 16-kilogram solid silver perpetual “Royal rophy” (center) after defeating Team Asia in the Seventh Edition of Royal Trophy Golf Championship at the Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou, China. (Ahn Hoon / The Korea Herald)
The Seventh Edition of The Royal Trophy ended like last year’s Asia versus Europe golf championship in Brunei -- with a nail-biter Singles match on the final day -- at Dragon Lake Golf Club on Sunday.
But in one huge respect the conclusion of this year’s event could not have been more different: Europe prevailed over Asia and recaptured the Royal Trophy.
This year was different in one more crucial way. European Team Captain Jose Maria Olazabal finally won as captain, ending his two-time losing streak. He did more than just wrest the trophy back from Asia.
Olazabal led Europe twice before and twice he was defeated by Naomichi “Joe” Ozaki of Japan, first in 2009 and again in 2012.
A beaming Olazabal thanked his teammates for their hard work before receiving the 16-kilogram solid-silver perpetual trophy from Feng Di, Chairman of Dragon Lake Golf Club.
This is first time for the Royal Trophy to be hosted in China. The Royal Trophy will take place in Guangzhou again next year.
Thai duo Riradech Aphibarnrat and Thongchai Jaidee swept past their European opponents. After that, fortune abandoned Team Asia.
Asia Team Captain Yang Yong-eun (center) consoles Kim Hyoung-sung (right) on the 18th green after he lost to David Howell of England during the final day of the Royal Trophy Golf Championship at the Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou, China, on Sunday. (Ahn Hoon / The Korea Herald)
Ishikawa produced his usual cavalier brand of golf, mixing moments of breathtaking brilliance with some careless errors, but that made this one of the most exciting clashes for the spectators to enjoy.
But Ishikawa made a mess of his chip from the back of the green, watching in horror as the ball split sideways off the blade of his club. Unable to hole his long putt for par, Ishikawa left Warren two putts to win the hole and the match.
The Scotsman sent his first putt racing five feet past the hole, but he steadied himself and made the one coming back to register Europe’s first point in the Singles.
Ishikawa’s defeat prefigured what was to happen to Kim Hyoung-sung. Dark clouds had begun to form above Team Asia.
David Howell of England produced perhaps the greatest comeback yet in the seven editions of the Royal Trophy. Kim Hyoung-sung led Howell by three with four holes to go.
But Howell won every one of them, to then somehow claim a priceless point for the Europeans. There was no sign of the drama to come as Kim, the runner-up on the Japan Golf Tour’s Order of Merit this year, golfed flawlessly to cover the first 14 holes in five under par.
Howell suddenly began casting magic around the greens, that other-worldly touch that propelled him into the top ten of the world rankings a few years ago, and which brought him a morale-boosting victory in the prestigious Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in September.
He conjured up winning birdies at the 15th and 16th holes and then produced a magical up and down from a greenside bunker to clinch victory, as Kim stumbled to three bogeys over the final four holes.
By Philip Iglauer, Korea Herald correspondent