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Europe in narrow Royal Trophy win over Asia

Clijsters wins all-Belgian final over Henin

Organizers say attack on Togo team won’t impact World Cup

Europe in narrow Royal Trophy win over Asia

Chonburi (AP) - Europe pulled out a victory against Asia Sunday in a tightly fought Royal Trophy matchplay event, with Henrik Stenson picking up a shot on the final hole to secure an 8 to 7 victory.

Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee had a putt on the final hole to take the match into a playoff but came up just short. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Stenson’s singles opponent Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand had a 15-foot putt on the 18th to take his match and square the three-day event at 8-8 to force a playoff, but the ball came up inches from the hole. The Swede, ranked 7th in the world, then sank a seven-foot putt to square the match and give Europe victory in the three-day event.
“All credits to my team for fighting. We all contributed at least one point this week,” European captain Colin Montgomerie said. “Congratulations to my team. Good start for European golf.”
Asia’s non-playing captain Naomichi “Joe” Ozaki captain praised the Europeans but said he was “pleased” with his team’s performance. He said he remained convinced until the end the two teams would end in a playoff.
“Actually, I had a vision that Thongchai would make a putt on the 18th hole and we would go to the playoff,” Ozaki said. “Unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
The roller-coaster match saw Asia take the early lead Friday but fall behind after Saturday’s four-ball competition.

The Europe team members pose for photographs after defeating the Asia team at the 4th Royal Trophy men’s team tournament at the Amata Spring Country Club course in Chonburi province, southeastern Thailand, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Asia entered the final day a point down but appeared poised for a victory after claiming 3 points to 1 over the first five singles matches. Charlie Wie of South Korea, Koumei Oda of Japan and Jeev Milkha Singh of India won their matches respectively against Simon Dyson of England, Alexander Noren of Sweden and Robert Karlsson of Sweden.
But then Spain’s Pablo Martin and Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen won their matches, setting the stage for the final match.
Down by three after nine holes, Stenson fought back to even the match with three holes to play. Thomchai, inspired by the cheering crowds, retook the lead on the 17th hole with a clutch birdie putt from eight-feet away.
Knowing he needed to win the match to force a playoff between the two teams, Thomchai pushed hard on the 18th only to come up short. Stenson coolly made a 7-foot par putt after Thomchai missed his 15-foot par putt.
“I was three down after 10 and I had to dig deep and really find something to make it even,” Stenson said. “I told the boys I wasn’t playing great, but said maybe I could find something if I had to - and I did.”


Clijsters wins all-Belgian final over Henin

John Pye
Brisbane, Australia (AP) - Kim Clijsters hung on to win a momentum-swinging all-Belgian final at the Brisbane International in a vintage finish last Saturday to Justine Henin’s comeback tournament.
Clijsters, only five tournaments into her own comeback which has already netted the U.S. Open title, saved two match points and then wasted three before clinching 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (6) over the seven-time Grand Slam titlist.

Kim Clijsters celebrates after winning her final match against Justine Henin during the Brisbane International Tennis Tournament, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010. Clijsters won the match 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 and donated her prize money to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Brisbane. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

Henin immediately withdrew from this week’s Sydney International, saying she had strained her upper left leg and didn’t want to risk further trouble ahead of her Grand Slam return at the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 18 in Melbourne.
Clijsters started strongly and led by a set and 4-1 before Henin, who struggled early and had two double-faults to open her first service game, staged a dramatic rally.
Henin, playing in the top tier for the first time since she quit while holding the No. 1 ranking in May 2008, won the next eight games to take a 3-0 lead in the third.
Clijsters rallied to 3-3, then gave up a break and faced two match points in the 10th game.
Clijsters held her nerve and, 15 minutes later, held her arms in the air, celebrating what she thought was a championship-winning backhand down the line in the tiebreaker - but the umpire overruled.
Henin got back to 6-6 in the tiebreaker but then double-faulted to give Clijsters a fourth match point. She made no mistake this time, with a forehand that Henin couldn’t get.
“Huh, what a match!” Clijsters told the crowd at Pat Rafter Arena. “I think we set the bar pretty high for ourselves for the rest of the year.
“It’s a great tournament to start the year with. I couldn’t be happier with myself.”
The top-seeded Clijsters closed Henin’s lead in career head-to-heads to 12-11, ending the three-match winning streak that Henin was on in 2006 - maintaining a sequence in which no player won more than three straight.


Organizers say attack on Togo team won’t impact World Cup

Johannesburg (AP) - World Cup organizers are confident that the fatal bus attack on the Togo team at the African Cup of Nations in Angola last week should not impact on the tournament in South Africa later this year.

Togo national soccer captain Emmanuel Adebayor is helped by an unidentified team member from the bus that was attacked by gunmen in Cabinda, Angola, Friday, Jan. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/TPA via APTN)

At least three people died and several more were injured when gunmen opened fire on the Togo team bus on Friday. Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor said that soon after their convoy entered Cabinda, a northern enclave cut off from the rest of Angola by a strip of Congo, “from nowhere gunmen began to open fire on our bus.” He said the gunfire lasted 30 minutes before Angolan soldiers repulsed the assailants.
Rich Mkhondo, media manager for World Cup 2010 organizers, said the incident would not impact preparations for the 32-team tournament that begins June 11. To suggest otherwise, he said, would be like saying that such an incident in the Czech Republic, for example, would have an impact on an event in Britain.
“We wish to state that there is no link between what happened in Angola and South Africa’s preparations to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup,” Mkhondo said.
“We also cannot compare organization and security in Angola with South Africa just because the two countries happen to be in the same region in the world.”
Because of South Africa’s notorious crime rate and the possibility that football hooligans from around the world may be among an estimated 450,000 fans headed for the country for the World Cup, security is already a major concern for organizers.
But they note South Africa has hosted trouble free events such as the Confederations Cup and the rugby and cricket World Cups and the continent had no trouble at other FIFA competitions.
“Africa has successfully hosted three successful FIFA events in the last eight months - the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa and the Under-17 and Under-19 World Cups in Nigeria and Egypt,” Mkhondo said.