STENSON SPOTS THE DIFFERENCE


Henrik Stenson admits his third Royal Trophy appearance was full of shocks – even though he emerged as Europe’s match-winning hero yet again.

The ice-cool Swede holed the decisive putt against Asia on the 18th green in the final match on the course, following up his winning putts in the same event in 2006 and in his Ryder Cup debut the same year.

But world number eight Stenson said the similarities ended there.

He explained: “If you look at those other putts, they were not really pressure putts.

“The one in the first Royal Trophy was for a 5&4 victory in my match, and when I played my first Ryder Cup the result was hardly in doubt, as we won by a huge margin, nine points.

“This was very different because it was the last match, I was a hole behind playing the 18th, and my putt had a big element of do or die about it.

“There was a lot of pressure on that putt, and it was a relief to make it – and a massive confidence-booster too. You don’t know how you will stand up to those situations until you find yourself being tested.

“But this whole Royal Trophy was something of a new experience for me. I may have played here twice before, but this was very different.

“When I was here in 2007 we allowed the Asian Team only three and a half points out of a possible 16. This time we were just a couple of inches away from a play-off – the space between Thongchai Jaidee’s putt and the hole when his ball came to rest.

“I think that shows how much progress Asian golf has made in just three years, and the condition of the course at Amata Spring this time was a real eye-opener for me too.

“Whatever fertiliser they used to grow the rough must have been on the list of golf’s illegal substances when they started drug testing last year!

“It was brutal, and that was not something I was expecting. When I played the course in 2006 and 2007 the rough was much lower. The course also seemed to play much longer this year.

“But it was in fantastic condition and I think the last three holes especially set up perfectly for match play.

“I had a great week and I enjoyed the company of all the other guys. It had the feeling of a really big, important competition, far more so than in my previous visits.”

Stenson admitted the memories of his epic duel with Thongchai Jaidee in the last of the Royal Trophy singles will live long in his memory, just as it will for the 20,000 captivated spectators, and millions more watching on TV.

He had to come back from three holes down with eight to play to finally square his match with the ultra-tough Thai player, claiming the half point that gave Europe their nail-biting 8 1/2 – 7 1/2 victory.

The Swedish star was happy to relive the closing stages of that never- to-be-forgotten battle – even the moment when Thongchai regained the initiative with a winning birdie on the 17th, to evoke the prospect of the Royal Trophy’s first sudden death shoot-out.

Stenson recalled: “We were in almost the same spot on 17, but I missed my putt and he made his to go one up again.

“But when he drove in the rough at the last I knew I had to get my ball in play to give myself a chance to go for the green. I knew he would struggle to get there from that lie.

“I was left with a putt of six to seven feet for par, and when he missed his putt from probably double the distance I just took dead aim and knocked it in.

“It was a good moment for me, and I guess it was a moment of heartbreak for Thongchai and all the Asian supporters. But it was a great finish, whichever way you look at it.”

European Player-Captain Colin Montgomerie was quick to agree – and he was just as quick with a rebuke when he was asked whether the Royal Trophy could be compared to the Ryder Cup in terms of intensity.

He replied: “Don’t put this event down. This is a very high standard of golf and all credit to the Asian Team for making it such a wonderful spectacle.

“I know it is a cliché, but the high drama at the finish meant the game of golf won in Asia. Everyone involved should appreciate that, and revel in the fact.

“From such a solid and inspirational foundation it can only grow and grow in the future.”

Montgomerie announced he is eager to be part of the team that defends the Royal Trophy next year, hopefully with competition founder and honorary European Captain Seve Ballesteros restored to full health after his brave battle against cancer.

Monty added: “I was merely standing in as captain for Seve because he was unable to attend. We all hope and pray that he will be back next year.

“It has been an honour to fill some very large shoes, and we look forward to welcoming Seve back.

“We have enjoyed ourselves immensely here, and we all look forward to being selected to play in this event again. Personally, I would love to be invited back.”

“The fourth edition of the Royal Trophy delivered a tremendously exciting competition and an amazingly tight series of matches;” stated Royal Trophy Managing Director, Lincoln Venancio.

“The Championship is soundly on its way of reaching Seve’s vision of growing into one of the world’s greatest sporting competitions:’ concluded Lincoln Venancio.

The Royal Trophy was organized in Thailand by the Sports Authority of Thailand and Entertainment and Sports Co., Ltd. The Championship is promoted internationally by Entertainment Group Limited.

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