Asia fight back against Europe in Royal Trophy

Sat Dec 15, 2012 8:52am EST
 
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(Reuters) - Asia stormed back into contention at the Royal Trophy on Saturday by taking three points from the four fourball matches against Europe to close the deficit to just one ahead of the final day singles.

Holders Europe have a slender 4 1/2-3 1/2 lead ahead of Sunday's eight singles matches at the Empire Country Club in Brunei with Jose Maria Olazabal's side needing four more points to win the annual contest loosely based on the Ryder Cup model.

Asia have won the Royal Trophy only once, in 2009, with Europe winning the four other editions. A fifth win looked odds on after Olazabal's side had taken three-point lead from the opening foursomes but Asia had other ideas on the second day.

India's Jeev Milkha Singh rolled in a four-foot putt on the 18th as he and Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand scored a fighting half in their match against Olazabal and Spanish compatriot Miguel Angel Jimenez in the opening game of the day.

Singh's putt also drew a welcome response from the crowd on his 41st birthday.

"It was nice to hear the crowd singing happy birthday. They might not have bothered if I had missed on 18," the Indian said in a television interview.

Jimenez and Olazabal, who was nursing what appeared to be a neck injury throughout the round, both narrowly missed makeable putts on the last to claim the win.

Despite the pain, Olazabal, who grimaced after hitting shots and had his caddie help stretch out his shoulders and neck during the round, will lead off the singles against South Korean Bae Sang-moon on Sunday.

South Korean Kim Kyung-tae then rolled in a four-footer on the 17th as he and compatriot Yang Yong-eun claimed a topsy-turvy 2&1 win over Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Swede Henrik Stenson.   Continued...

 
Yoshinori Fujimoto of Japan watches his tee shot on the 16th hole during the Royal Trophy golf tournament between Asia and Europe in Bandar Seri Begawan December 15, 2012. REUTERS/Ahim Rani