Europe won five of the last six singles matches for a stunning 8.5-7.5 comeback win over Asia to reclaim the Royal Trophy in China on Sunday and give captain Jose Maria Olazabal his first success in the team matchplay event.
Trailing 5-3 ahead of Sunday’s eight singles matches, Europe looked set for a record defeat when Kiradech Aphibarnrat beat Paul Lawrie 3 and 2 and Thai compatriot Thongchai Jaidee overcame another Scot, Stephen Gallacher, 4 and 2 to make it 7-3.
With victory in sight, the pressure appeared to hit the holders at the Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou as they painfully surrendered their strong position built up over the opening fourball and foursomes matches.
Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa, who had been two up after seven holes of his singles match, shanked a chip across the green en route to bogeying the 18th which allowed Scotland’s Marc Warren to win one up with a par on the last.
That made the score 7-4, with three more European wins coming in a matter of minutes as Thorbjorn Olesen beat Wu Ashun 3 and 2, David Howell edged Kim Hyung-sung one up and Bernd Wiesberger overcame Hiroyuki Fujita 3 and 2.
Kim’s loss was particularly painful with the South Korean three up on the 15th tee only to three-putt the last to allow the Englishman to snatch the match one up when he got up and down from the greenside bunker on 18.
Spain’s Alvaro Quiros could also only three putt the tricky undulating green at the par four last to toss away a one up advantage and halve his match with South Korea’s Kim Kyung-tae.
That left the scores tied at 7.5-7.5 with only Nicolas Colsaerts and Liang Wenchong on the course with the Belgian protecting a one up advantage after 16 holes.
Both holed tricky putts on 17 for par with Colsaerts then calmly getting up and down from the right of the 18th green to seal the match and trophy after Liang also three-putted.
It was a fifth win for Europe in seven editions with Olazabal, who led Europe to a sterling Sunday fightback win in the Ryder Cup against United States last year, having presided over their two defeats last year and in 2009.
“I want to thank these fantastic eight guys who did something extraordinary today,” the Spaniard said before being presented with the trophy on the 18th green.
“It is something, to be honest, I had a few doubts, especially through the round. Thank you very much for your contribution.”
Asian captain Yang Yong-eun lamented his side’s costly errors on a sloppy Sunday for his charges.
“Unfortunately we had a shocking loss and hopefully next year we will learn from the mistakes we made and come back stronger,” the Korean said through a translator.