Europe hangs on to win inaugural Royal Trophy

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The Independent Online

Irishmen Graeme McDowell and Paul McGinley, and Sweden's Henrik Stenson overcame a determined Asia in Sunday's singles matches to give Europe a 9-7 win at the inaugural Royal Trophy men's team golf tournament.

After dominating the foursomes and fourball matches 6-2 Saturday, Europe needed just 2 1/2 points from the eight-singles competition to claim victory, but the Asians won the day 5-3 and were not about to give up without a fight at Amata Spring Country Club.

"I am really happy with the final score today. It has been a great two days of competition and the Europe team played fantastic," said Europe captain Seve Ballesteros. "The Asian team also showed a game and sportsmanship."

At one stage of the morning, only McDowell was leading his match, as the rest of the Europe team were battling from behind or all square.

McGinley then overcame China's Zhang Lianwei 2 and 1 and McDowell held out India's Jyoti Randhawa 3 and 2 to set the stage for a tight contest.

Japan's Yasuharu Imano beat Briton David Howell 2-up to keep Asia's hopes alive, which at one stage looked on track to force a tournament win.

But Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, with five bogeys against him, could not pose a threat to Stenson and lost 4 and 5 to give Europe three points from the day and the Royal Trophy.

"I was happy to see the boys fight back after yesterday," said Asia captain Masahiro Kuramoto of Japan. "It was a very good day. For a moment it looked possible that we could upset Europe and our players grew in confidence."

Asia swept the remaining matches. Indian Arjun Atwal dismissed former world No. 1 Nick Faldo 3 and 2 on the 16th hole, followed by Japan's Keiichiro Fukabori, who upset Denmark's Thomas Bjorn on the 16th green, 4 and 3.

Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam lost to Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant for the second time this tournament, falling 2 and 1.

"We have won this by one point and that was good enough," said Woosnam. "All we have to do is the same thing for the Ryder Cup now."

In the day's other singles match, S.K. Ho of South Korea beat out Kenneth Ferrie 2 and 1.

"Our players have come together and we overcame the language and religion barrier," said Kuramoto. "We can become a good team to play other continents."

Europe takes home US$1 million in prize money and a 15-kilogram (33-pound) silver trophy donated by Thailand's monarch, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. As runners-up, Asia earns US$500,000. The tournament will be held for the next five years in Thailand, while the sixth edition will be played in Europe.