Royal Trophy: Europe’s ‘Miracle at Dragon Lake’

The victorious Europe team with the Royal Trophy after their dramatic victory. Picture: AP
The victorious Europe team with the Royal Trophy after their dramatic victory. Picture: AP
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Jose Maria Olazabal masterminded the “Miracle of Medinah” in 2012 and this year produced another piece of magic as Europe took the Royal Trophy on a dramatic final day.

The Spaniard’s Ryder Cup side won eight and tied one of 12 last-day matches in Chicago a year ago, and the situation facing his team was the same yesterday.

They started day three 5-3 down to Asia and when their hosts got out to 7-3, the writing was on the wall.

A stunning turnaround ensued, though, and Europe won 8½ to 7½ as Asia crumbled under the pressure at the Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou.

Nicolas Colsaerts was the man on the spot to sink the winning putt, prompting scenes of jubilation on the green.

It capped another fine achievement for Olazabal, who had gone toe-to-toe with opposite number Y E Yang in the build-up, with both predicting how tough the other was going to have it.

Yang appeared to be vindicated when his men led at the end of day two and then stretched out in front as Kiradech Aphibarnrat beat Paul Lawrie (3&2) and Stephen Gallacher was toppled 4&2 by Thongchai Jaidee.

Asia needed a point and a half with six games out on the course at that stage and, even when Marc Warren took the two putts he needed to beat Ryo Ishikawa, it appeared nothing more than a consolation.

But the win gave Europe some momentum and then H S Kim picked up three bogeys on the way home which allowed David Howell to make birdies on the 15th and 16th to level, before taking the match with a brilliant last-hole up-and-down from the greenside bunker.

The rush stopped partly as K T Kim halved with Alvaro Quiros, but Europe quickly got a move on again as rising star Thorbjorn Olesen saw off Wu Asham with two holes to spare.

Bernd Wiesberger and Hiroyuki Fujita reached the turn all square but the former then ramped up the power and four birdies over the first six holes heading home earned him a 3&2 win.

Europe’s middle order had put them in with a chance and, going into the last match between Liang Wen-chong and Colsaerts, everyone knew the trophy would go to the winner.

Colsaerts edged ahead first and then twice recovered as Liang nipped in front, but the Belgian went out on his own again with three left. Liang then had a 15-footer to level on 16 but missed, before he messed up an approach on the 17th. He needed a 30-footer to take the match to the last hole but he three-putted and Colsaerts dropped in from two feet for the win.

Howell has two Ryder Cup wins to his name but admitted that this tournament presented him with new challenges.

“I suppose every great fightback has to have a turning point, and I guess my match was the one this time,” he told the tournament’s official website.

“There’s no doubt we were in big trouble at 7-3 down, and as my match entered the back nine I looked across at Ollie and he was practically pleading with me to make something good happen.

“My opponent was five under through 14 before he finally hit his first poor shot, and I was able to make a couple of birdies I needed to put him under a bit of pressure.

“I was determined to take it to the last hole, because I looked at the scoreboards and I could see that, even if I could get a half point, it would prove vital. I certainly didn’t want to go down without a fight, and to actually win the last four holes and get the win was a real thrill for me.

“My heart was pumping so fast over those closing holes, I don’t know how I was able to hit the shots I managed to pull off.”