Stenson's vital half earns title for Europe
THERE was no shortage of grit in Bangkok yesterday as Colin Montgomerie's European tigers made a stirring start to Ryder Cup year.
Henrik Stenson was the final-hole hero of the day, holing a seven-foot putt for par on the 18th green at Amata Spring Country Club to clinch a dramatic 8 - 7 victory over Asia in the Royal Trophy.
Stenson, a veteran of the last two Ryder Cups, clawed back from three down after 10 holes against Thongchai Jaidee to earn the all-important half point.
It was a repeat of Europe's triumph in the maiden event in 2006 when Stenson beat Thongchai in the anchor match for overall victory. Europe also won in 2007, but were stunned 10-6 by Asia last year.
"We really had a game on this week and had to dig deep, especially me in the final match," said Stenson. "I'm not playing great at the moment, but I told the boys I could find that extra bit near the end if I needed it and I did that today."
Colin Montgomerie, Ryder Cup skipper at Celtic Manor next October, enthused: "This has been a good start to a very important year for European golf and we hope to build on it. I'd seven potential clients here and we all got on great. We really are like a big family on the European Tour."
The Scot agreed to serve as player-captain at the Royal Trophy after Seve Ballesteros fell ill and he made a significant contribution in both roles, coming back from two down through 10 to claim a critical half point against Liang Wen-chong.
Monty had to draw on all of his experience to match a 25-foot birdie putt by the in-form Chinese player on the final hole. "That was good, to come back from two down with him playing so well," he said.
"I birdied 11 and managed another on 16, and that was just amazing at the last, because it's a tough hole. For him to birdie it and me to follow him in was great golf."
Koumei Oda, a two-time winner on the Japan Tour last season, put the first point on the board for Asia, thumping Swede Alexander Noren 5&3. Charlie Wi then beat Simon Dyson 1-up, but Peter Hanson put the first point on the board for Europe with his 5&4 demolition of Japanese teen Ryo Ishikawa.
Though Jeev Milkha Singh eclipsed Robert Karlsson 2&1, Pablo Martin and Soren Kjeldsen claimed the next two points for Europe, ensuring the match went down to the final game.