Shah Alam, Malaysia: Team Asia goes into battle against Europe in the second edition of the EurAsia Cup eager to settle an old score.
Two years ago, the inaugural showdown ended in a thrilling 10-10 tie at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club, with Asia producing a miraculous fightback. But team captain Jeev Milkha Singh and counterpart Darren Clarke have been clear in their intent to emerge victorious on Sunday evening.
Singh picked newly installed Asian Tour number one Anirban Lahiri of India for the opening Fourball match with Korean Wang Jeung-hun while Clarke opted for Europe’s match play expert Ian Poulter of England and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger.
Asia’s second pairing will also prove formidable with the team’s two highest ranked players in the world, Thai Thongchai Jaidee and An Byeong-hun of Korea, facing English duo Danny Willet, second in last year’s Race to Dubai, and Matthew Fitzpatrick.
Local heroes Danny Chia and Nicholas Fung take on Frenchman Victor Dubuisson and Dane Soren Kjeldsen in the third match; Thai Prayad Marksaeng and Korean KT Kim face England’s Ross Fisher and Swede Kristoffer Broberg; Japanese veteran Shingo Katayama and China’s Wu Ashun square off against Irishman Shane Lowry and England’s Andy Sullivan while Indian SSP Chawrasia and Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat tackle England’s Lee Westwood and Chris Wood in the bottom match.
Captain Singh, a two-time former Asian Tour number one, said: “I’m really excited about this. Both teams are very strong. End of the day, I think whoever holes more putts, good course management, that’s where it’s going to come down to. Both sides are really experienced. I feel my team looks very good. I’m positive, I’m excited, and I believe in my team that they are going to do really well.
“I think my players are going to live up to the pressure. They are here for a reason. They have earned this. They are good enough to play on the world stage. So I feel that they have got to enjoy this, and they have got to make the most out of it.”
Clarke, who will also skipper Europe in this year’s Ryder Cup, is counting on his captain’s pick, Poulter, to deliver the first point for Europe. “I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen – in fairness, it could be any draw. I have that much belief in my team that whatever the draw was going to be,” said Clarke.
“We all know Poults. We know what he brings to the team. We know what he brings to the team room. And to have him leading off Europe, we couldn’t ask for a better player. With Bernd, you’ve got a very, very young, exciting talent.”
Lahiri, who delivered two points for Asia in 2014, cannot wait to lead the home team out on Friday morning with Wang, who is the baby of the squad at 20 years old.
“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s an honour to be going out first. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun playing with Wang. He’s a big talent. I’m just going to try to help him play freely. I think it’s going to be a good match starting up and I think it’s going to be critical that we get off to a good start, and just go out there and be aggressive.”
The effervescent Poulter, for long Europe’s talisman in the Ryder Cup, plans to repay Clarke’s faith in him at the EurAsia Cup. “Going out there in match one, I’ll try to put a point on the board. We’ve got a tough match but hopefully we can do a good job.”
World number 27 Thongchai, who was the playing captain for Asia in 2014, is confident he and 24-year-old An, ranked 29th and the European Tour rookie of the year last season, can secure a point for Team Asia.
“I think it’s a very good pairing. The most important thing is to win. We’ll try to win every match but I know it’s not easy,” said Thongchai.
The EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM features 24 matches, with day one showcasing six Fourball matches, followed by six Foursomes matches and 12 Singles matches on the third day. The winning team will share prize money of US$3.6 million while the runners-up will share US$1.2 million.