Asia defeats Europe in dramatic Royal Trophy finale

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN ? Asia took back the Royal Trophy Sunday for first time since 2009, in Asian Captain Naomichi "Joe" Ozaki's second face-off against European player-captain Jose Maria Olazabal. They first met in 2009.

But Ozaki has Korean pair Yang Yong-eun and Kim Kyung-tae to thank for it.

After tying it up in nail-biting singles "battle royal" 8-8, the all-Korean dynamic duo powered over Europeans Nicolas Colsaerts and Francesco Molinari, respectively ranked 35 and 30 in the world, in a fourball playoff in the Royal Trophy Championship at the Empire Hotel and Country Club, Sunday.

Kim Kyung-tae made an 8-foot birdie putt on the first hole of the playoff Sunday to lift Asia past Europe in the Royal tourney.

Colsaerts had a chance to match Kim's birdie, but missed a 5-footer. Ozaki launched into a gleeful rendition of "Gangnam Style," as the Asian contingent cheered in jubilation.

"I am so proud of all my players, but especially K.T. Kim. It was a great Royal Trophy and a great way to finish. My congratulations to the European team on a wonderful performance, and to my players for a great victory," Ozaki said.

Yang was the one who forced the playoff, beating Molinari up two holes with one remaining in the final singles match-up.

After falling behind 3 1/2-1/2 on Friday in the opening foursomes, Asia cut it to 4 1/2-3 1/2 in fourball play Saturday, and tied it with 4 1/2 points in the closing singles.

Between the dueling continents, Europe leads 4-2.

Korea's Kim Kyung-tae plays a shot during the third round of the Royal Trophy on Sunday. Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald

India's Jeev Milkha Singh pulled Asia even at 7 with a 1-up victory over Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, but Sweden's Henrik Stenson restored Europe with a 1-up decision over Japan's youthful Ryo Ishikawa.

But it was Yang who tied it up, finishing off Molinari with a half on the 17th and sending the competition to the playoff.

Olazabal had to withdraw from his scheduled match against Bae Sang-moon because of a neck injury that forced grimaced expressions throughout day two on the usually playful Spainard, That gave each team a half-point.

"You saw how close this match was by the fact six of the seven Singles matches came down to the final hole," Olazabal said. "Then in the playoff, Nicolas hit two wonderful shots and was actually closer to the hole than K.T. Kim. The margins between victory and defeat are tiny, and I have told my players I am very proud of them and they should leave with their heads held high."

Ozaki selected Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat to sit it out, if a European player withdrew. Bae ended up taking Kiradech's spot against Colsaerts, a match Colsaerts won 1 up when he took the par-5 15th hole with an eagle and halved the final three holes with pars.

In the other matches, Kim and Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano halved, Japan's Yoshinori Fujimoto beat Germany's Marcel Siem 1 up, and China's Wu Ashun halved with Italy's Edoardo Molinari.

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