SWEDES PREDICT RAPID ROYAL GROWTH


Henrik Stenson is eager to extend his association with the Royal Trophy as it continues to grow into a Competition that both commands – and demands – respect throughout the golfing world.

But he wonders how long he can maintain his unbeaten record in the Event after watching it mushroom from a low-key start into one of the most fiercely-fought and compelling Competitions on the golfing calendar.

Stenson explained: “My first two Royal Trophy appearances did not really prepare me for the intensity of the battles we have faced in my last two, although perhaps I should have been expecting it after I missed the Asian victory in 2009.

“The first Royal Trophy was not as competitive, with legendary players like Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam in the European Team, rather than eight players who were still active on the European Tour.

“And when we came back here a year later with the a Team packed with Ryder Cup players such as Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Robert Karlsson and myself, we absolutely steamrollered Asia.

“But things obviously changed with Asia’s first win in 2009, and when I came back last year I was amazed at how much more competitive the Asian players had become, and how that reflected the way the whole Competition had moved to a new level.

“We had that nail-biting finish where I had to hole my putt on the last for a half with Thongchai Jaidee to halve my match and win the Royal Trophy, and then another incredible finish this year.

“The Asian players will be hurting after we won the Singles 7-1 to cancel out their 6-2 lead from the first two days, but these things can happen in golf. It wasn’t much different from the way they dominated us to win the Fourballs 4-0.

“It provided another nail-biting finish, and that is what you want – for the spectators, for television, and for the credibility of the Competition itself.

“It really is developing along Ryder Cup lines, and I will certainly be back if I am selected again, because I love being part of this fantastic atmosphere.

“I have still not finished on a losing side in four Royal Trophys – but when I see how close it was this year, and realise five of the eight Asian players were 25 or under, I wonder how long that can continue.

“They are only going to get better, and they will have learned a lot from this year’s amazing swings in fortune. It is going to be tougher and tougher to keep beating them in future years.”

Fellow Swede Peter Hanson, who used his Royal Trophy debut in 2010 as a springboard for a first Ryder Cup appearance nine months later, is equally enthusiastic about the Competition’s future.

He said: “The Asian Team may find it hard to agree with this, but that finish was great for the Competition.

“We wouldn’t have liked it if the roles had been reversed, but it would have been impossible to argue that it wasn’t exciting, and it must have been fantastic to watch it unfold on television.

“It was a day of golf that people will talk about for a long time, and that is the sort of drama only team match play can produce.

“Sure, you can have great individual battles, like the Open Championship ‘Duel in the Sun’ at Turnberry between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, or the famous final round battle between Nick Faldo and Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters.

“But this was drama on a grand scale. Every match was important; every match was fascinating and full of twists and turns – even mine.

“The record books will show I won easily against Liang Wen-chong, 7&6. But it didn’t look like it would be working out like that when he won the first two holes with birdies.

“It is a big responsibility to go out first with the aim of putting some European blue on the leader board, but luckily I managed to turn it round quickly and a few of our Team members were kind enough to say that me winning so emphatically was inspirational to them.

“If I hadn’t been able to get the job done, who knows how the result would have turned out? That is one of the beauties of evenly-matched events like this – they are so unpredictable.”

The statistics certainly bear out their impressions that the Royal Trophy is getting bigger and bigger with each passing year.

This fifth edition, staged at the magnificent Black Mountain Golf Club in the coastal town of Hua Hin, Thailand, was televised in more than 250 Countries and Territories, with more than fifty broadcasting companies beaming the coverage across 70-plus different television channels.

The 2011 Match signalled the end of the initial undertaking to hold the Competition in the Kingdom of Thailand for the inaugural five editions, following His Majesty the King of Thailand’s gracious donation of the Royal Trophy.

No fewer than seven Thai television channels carried live and simultaneous coverage of the 2011 clash between Asian and Europe, and the Nation’s enthusiasm and support for the Royal Trophy will make it difficult for the Tournament holders to uproot it. The Royal Trophy originates from the vision of the legendary five-time Major winner Seve Ballesteros who intended to gift the Asian Continent with the same golf growth impetus for the sport that the Ryder Cup delivered to Europe in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

But now that the rights to host the Event is open to tender, more than twenty Nations, Provinces, States, Municipalities and Golf Clubs throughout Asia have already registered their intention to stage one or more of the next five editions of the Championship. By the time of the tender closing date, that number is certain to have more than doubled.

The decision on the Host Venues for the next five editions of the Royal Trophy, to be held on 2012 to 2016, is an announcement that will be eagerly waited all over the golfing world.

“This is a very exciting time for the development of the Royal Trophy. We have witnessed incredible golf and a most dramatic final day – a remarkable European come back against a very strong Asian Team that no one could have expected;” said Lincoln Venancio, the Royal Trophy Managing Director.

“It is also very rewarding to see that the Captains and all the great champions we had here in Thailand this week truly believe that the Royal Trophy is growing into a tremendously competitive Match where all that counts is the pride of winning for your team-mates, your Continent and your people;” concluded Lincoln Venancio.

The Royal Trophy was hosted by the Royal Thai Government; organized by the Sports Authority of Thailand in conjunction with Prachuap Khirikhan Province and Hua Hin Municipality; and was promoted internationally by Entertainment Group Limited.

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