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Birthday boy Jeev keeps Asia in hunt

Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei), Dec 15, 2012, (PTI): 17:58 IST
Jeev Milkha Singh celebrated his 41st birthday with a match-saving putt that ensured a fine Asian fight back on the second day of the Royal Trophy here.

Playing with Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, a crucial half point against experienced Spaniards Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Jimenez, kept Asia in the hunt as they won two other matches and halved another.

Asia won the second day 3-1 and the total score is now 4.5-3.5 in favour of the Europeans.

Jeev denied experienced Spaniards victory when he holed a four-footer for par on the 18th green and the crowd on the greenside started singing, 'Happy Birthday'.

After watching Aphibarnrat and both Europeans miss their putts, it was a key moment as the Asian pair trailed by a hole and needed to win the hole to halve the match.

"That was a half that felt like a win considering the position we were in on the final hole. I may have been the one who holed the putt, but it was a real team effort – Kiradech is a young boy with a lot of potential for the future. It was nice to hear the crowd singing Happy Birthday. They might not have bothered if I had missed on 18!" said Jeev.

Trailing 3˝-˝ after the opening-day foursomes, Asia triumphed 3-1 in the fourballs section with two of the matches going to the final hole and the other two decided in Asia's favour on the 17th green.

Leading 4˝-3˝ overall, Europe requires four points from Sunday's eight singles to secure a fifth Royal Trophy success from six attempts, while Asia needs to amass five points.

In another match, Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and German Marcel Siem halved their clash against South Korean Bae Sang-moon and China's Wu Ashun.

Y E Yang and fellow South Korean Kim Kyung-Tae beat Swede Henrik Stenson and Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano 2-1 and behind them, Ryo Ishikawa and Yoshinori Fujimoto staged a fight back of their own.

Two-down at the turn against Italian brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, the Japanese duo levelled it after 12 holes. They then completed a remarkable win with a hat-trick of birdies from the 15th, including an amazing eagle-three by Ishikawa at 16th.

Earlier today, Jeev won the Asia Pacific Lifetime Achievement award along with 18-time Major champion Jack Nicklaus and eight-time European Tour Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie.

The award for Jeev came in recognition of his achievements around the world, including four titles in Europe, four in Japan and six others on Asian Tour.

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