Team Asia go into battle against Europe in the second edition of the EurAsia Cup on Friday eager to settle an old score.
Two years ago, the inaugural showdown ended in a thrilling 10-10 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 on Friday with Korean Jeunghun Wang while Clarke opted for Europe’s matchplay expert Ian Poulter of England and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger.
Asia’s second pairing will also prove a formidable one with the team’s two highest ranked players in the world, Thai star Thongchai Jaidee and Byeonghun An of Korea, partnering to face English duo Danny Willet, who finished second in last year’s Race to Dubai, and Matthew Fitzpatrick.
Local heroes Danny Chia and Nicholas Fung will take on Frenchman Victor Dubuisson and Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark in the third match. Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand and Korea’s K.T. Kim will face England’s Ross Fisher and Kristoffer Broberg of Sweden, Japanese veteran star Shingo Katayama and China’s Wu Ashun will square off against Irishman Shane Lowry and Andy Sullivan of England while India’s S.S.P. Chawrasia and Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand will tackle English duo Lee Westwood and Chris Wood in the bottom match.
Captain Singh, a former two-time Asian Tour number one, said: “I’m really excited about this. In fact, both the teams are very strong. End of the day, I think whoever holes more putts, good course management, that’s where it’s all going to come down to. Both the sides are really experienced. But I still 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 to what all they are here for. 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 is also skippering Europe in the Ryder Cup later this year, 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.
“Obviously, 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. I think it’s an honour to be going out first. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun playing with Wang. I really think 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. “Obviously going out there in match one tomorrow, I’ll try to put a point on the board. We’ve got obviously a tough match but hopefully, we can go out there and 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.
China’s Wu Ashun, making his debut in the EurAsia Cup, believes Team Asia’s spirit can be a deciding fact this week. “I’m very excited to come here, especially if you come to the team room, it’s really a very good atmosphere.”
Big-hitting Kiradech said Asia cannot afford to allow a repeat of 2014 when Europe won all the opening day’s Fourball matches. “If you look back, it’s quite unlucky the way Team Asia started. But this year, we are going to start much better. We are going to jump ahead of Europe and make everything easier in the last two rounds,” said the 2013 Asian Tour number one.
The EurAsia Cup will feature 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.