Defeat hard to stomach

Jeev Milkha Singh, drafted into the Asia team for his big match experience, appeared rusty owing to a six-week layoff following a shoulder injury. He made up for his embarrassing display in the Foursome with a steady game in the Four-ball. And he was in his element in the Singles competition too.

Teeing off against Spain's Pablo Martin in the singles, Jeev bogeyed the first two holes, then fought back, after his rival had taken a two-hole advantage, with birdies on the third and sixth and edged ahead in the 10th.

Martin birdied the 15th to draw level.

With the crowds, sensing a close finish, rushing in to catch up with the action, Jeev's performance fell short in the face of Martin's pure brilliance.

In the Four-ball competition on day two, India's only player on the Black Mountain course complemented his South Korean team-mate Kim Kyung-Tae's game. “My partner played great and made some clutch putts to win holes. I was happy to help out on a few holes,” said Jeev on the win over Swedes Henrik Stenson and Johan Edfors.

Jeev's return to form drew praise from both Montgomerie and Asia's non-playing captain Joe Ozaki. The latter had paired the Indian with Thongchai Jaidee in the Foursome and then changed the pairing for the Four-ball.

Drawing flak for choosing Jeev in the Asia squad, Ozaki got into damage-control mode ahead of the Four-ball competition, saying: “I changed the pairing after noticing that Thongchai had a lot of Thai supporters and didn't want that to add to the pressure Jeev is under.”

According to Jeev, the Hua Hin event was a stage to assess match fitness for the 2011 season before heading out on the US Tour, playing on a medical exemption. “The beauty of match-play is that every hole is significant, you feel the Sunday ‘back nine' adrenalin straightaway. I need that more than most to make up for lost time.”

Ozaki managed a brave smile even as the Royal Trophy ended in a blaze of glory for Europe. Going into the final day with his team needing just two and half points out of eight Singles ties, the 7-9 defeat hurt the non-playing captain who had backed his players to the hilt.

“This defeat is difficult to take. I have had regrets ever since I accepted the role of Asia captain because you can never expect to get everything right. I don't know if I will be captain again next year. This is not the best time to talk about that,” he said.

Ozaki, one of Asia's great golfers, said: “I expected Europe to come back hard at us. As captain and as a Japanese, I take full responsibility for this defeat. I never thought winning would be easy. I realise how hard it is to win in match-play. Anything can happen.”

Nandakumar Marar