José Maria Olazábal reluctantly withdrew from his Singles match on the final day of the Royal Trophy, after his neck injury showed no signs of improvement.

The European Player-Captain apologised to Asian Captain Naomichi ‘Joe’ Ozaki, his scheduled opponent in the opening Singles match, Bae Sang-moon of Korea, and the other Asian Team member affected by his decision, Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand.

Kiradech’s name was in a sealed envelope submitted by Captain Ozaki, as the player nominated to sit out the Singles session if any of the Europeans were injured or unfit. That mean Bae was switched from his scheduled meeting with Olazabal to take Kiradech’s spot opposite Nicolas Colsaerts in the second match.

Olazábal said he had taken the decision to withdraw very reluctantly, but he was not prepared to run the risk of letting his Team down. He explained: “I think everyone could see I was in a fair amount of pain during my Fourball match and I had intensive treatment on Saturday night and on Sunday morning.

“We heard something click in the final course of treatment, and the tightness in my neck felt as if had eased slightly so I was hopeful of playing. When I went to the driving range and started hitting sand wedges there was no reaction – but when I moved on to a seven iron I was getting shooting pains in my neck. By the time I tried hitting three irons and my driver I could see there was no point in continuing. I simply could not move my neck enough to hit the ball properly.

“I am extremely disappointed. Everyone knows how much respect I have for the game of golf, for my opponents, and for this competition. Pulling out of a match is not a decision I would ever take lightly. If this had been a stroke play tournament, and I was playing only for myself, I might have tried to play through the pain. If that meant shooting 80, then I would be the only one to suffer. But I am part of a Team, with the added responsibility of being the Captain, and to risk throwing away a point because of selfish pride would be unthinkable.

“I sought out Joe as well as Bae Sang-moon and Kiradech and told them all I could not apologise enough – but it really was unavoidable. We have the system of sealed envelopes for such an eventuality, and at least both Teams has a half point apiece, so it leaves everything to play for.”

Kiradech, 23, took the news that he would have to stand down with admirable courage and dignity. The former World Junior Champion recognised that he is one of the least experienced members of the Asian Team, and that he had not produced his best golf in the previous day’s Fourball matches.

He said: “I am very disappointed of course, but I cannot argue with Captain Ozaki’s decision. We all understand the sealed envelope system and I think the rookies on the Asian Team all accepted it was likely that one of us would not play if a member of the European Team was injured.

“I know I did not play as well as I can in the Fourball matches, so perhaps it was not a surprise that my name went in the envelope. But I will not let that affect me. I have gained a lot of experience from playing for Asia over the first two days, and I am sure it will help me to become a better golfer. We all have to endure disappointments in golf, and it is how you react to them that is important. I will spend the day cheering on my team-mates, hoping they can give me something to smile about.”

The Royal Trophy - Europe vs Asia Golf Championship
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