Tables turned on Olazabal as Spaniard watches Europe throw away lead and lose Royal Trophy to Asia
13:28 GMT, 16 December 2012
Jose Maria Olazabal might now feel an inkling of Davis Love III’s pain after his Europe side threw away a lead at the Royal Trophy and crashed to defeat against Asia in the Sultanate of Brunei.
If Love, Olazabal’s victim during the Miracle at Medinah, was watching at home in Georgia, one would forgive him a vengeful smirk.
A week under the tropical sun, surrounded by lush rainforest and the South China Sea lapping gently in the distance might sound like a fine way to end the golfing year. But for Olazabal the reality was rather more uncomfortable.
Plagued by an injury that sent shooting pains through his neck and forced his withdrawl from play on Sunday, drenched in sweat from the stifling humidity and beaten by a much-less celebrated Asia team – this was no week in the sun for Ollie.
Comeback kings: Asia Team Captain Naomichi Joe Ozaki of Japan lifts the Royal Trophy after beating Europe
Party time: The Asia Team celebrate beating Europe
The great Spaniard was hoping to cement his status as a great European captain by following the Ryder Cup with another intercontinental triumph but was forced to withdraw from the final day’s singles after the neck injury he sustained yesterday failed to respond overnight to intensive treatment. The only consolation was that, rather than forfeit the match, competition rules meant the match was halved due to Olazabal’s injury.
That's it: Miguel Angel Jimenez shakes hands with Jeev Milka Singh of India after finishing their round
Happy times: YE Yang of South Korea and Japan's Ryo Ishikawa celebrate as the European team look on
It might seem more than a little unfair on the Asian team, who would have won before the eventual playoff were he forced to concede, but the same rule applies in the Ryder Cup. Golf remains a gentleman’s game, despite what you might think about the scenes surrounding certain tees at Medinah.
‘I am extremely disappointed,’ admitted Olazabal. ‘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.
Watching it all the way: Jeev Milkha Singh of India putts on the third hole and but sees his effort miss (below)
'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.’
Nicolas Colsaerts had appeared to set Europe on course for a routine victory with a win in the opening singles match against Sang-moon Bae, the Belgian bomber inspired by an eagle on the long 15th thanks to a jaw-dropping 60-foot putt. But Henrik Stenson was Olazabal’s only other winner on the day as Yoshinori Fujimoto, Jeev Milkha Singh and YE Yang took European scalps.
On course for victory: Ryo Ishikawa of Japan watches his tee shot on the fourth hole
The Asian fightback forced a four-man, fourball playoff – there is no cop-out of retaining the trophy here in the event of a points tie (bad luck for Olazabal, but what would have transpired had Love been afforded that luxury) And Colsaerts appeared to have landed the knockout blow with a stunning wedge into the 18th green following his umpteenth tracer-bullet drive of the week.
No Euro joy this time: Marcel Siem of Germany watches his tee shot on the third hole
But, ironically, it was ultimately one of Olazabal’s Ryder Cup heroes who let him down at the crunch. Kim sank an eight-footer for birdie, while Colsaerts missed from just five feet to hand victory to Asia, whose captain, Joe Ozaki, danced Gangnam Style in celebration.
It was Olazabal who made famous victory dances, but he will have to return to Spain and console himself, glass of wine in hand, with the memories of those incredible days in Chicago. Although he takes this emerging and promising competition very seriously, one imagines he will do that just fine.