Shah Alam, 12 January, 2018: At the end of an intriguing first day’s play, it is advantage Asia in the EurAsia Cup battle at the Glenmarie Golf & Country Club in Malaysia. Sunghoon Kang and Poom Saksansin proved to be the surprise package, producing an emphatic 5&4 victory over Henrik Stenson and Alexander Levy. At one point in time, #TeamAsia was up in four of the six fourballs, before settling for a 3.5-2.5 scoreline at the end of the day. Indian duo Anirban Lahiri and SSP Chawrasia had a disappointing day, slipping to a 5&4 defeat at the hands of Ross Fisher and Tyrrell Hatton.
The contest turned for Asia, when Hideto Tanihara, one up reaching the 18th, produced a terrific birdie at the final hole to seal a third point for the team.
The contest was then down to the match between Bernd Wiesberger & Rafa Cabrera Bello against Nicholas Fung & Haotong Li. The Asian duo were reeling from a sudden burst of birdies from the Spaniard, reaching the 18th down by one.
The Chinese star produced a clutch putt just when it mattered to halve the point and send the Asian team into a little jiggle of happiness. They do know though that the job is far from done. “We are happy with the way things went today. The early burst provided by Kang and Saksansin helped the entire team,” said Arjun Atwal, captain of the Asian team.
“The players are all so happy playing with each other,” added Arjun. “No one wanted a switch, so the same pairs will go out tomorrow and continue the good work.”
Match 1 – Byeong Hun An & Kiradech Aphibarnrat vs Tommy Fleetwood & Paul Casey 4&3
Fleetwood and Casey – a combination of rich form and wealthy experience took charge very early in their contest against An and Aphibarnrat. They took two of the first three holes to earn an early advantage. But the determined Korean-Thai pairing fought back, taking the 7th and 10th holes to even scores. But Fleetwood and Casey closed out in style, taking four of the next five holes to end the contest at the 15th hole.
In one of the three intense affairs on the first day of this EurAsia Cup, Ikeda and Green did a terrific job of holding their nerves against the formidable duo from #TeamEurope. It was the Europeans that went ahead first, with a fine birdie at the fourth hole. But Ikeda and Green turned the tables with birdies at 5 & 7 and a terrific eagle at the par-5 eleventh hole. But Pieters & Fitzpatrick showed great resolve to pull the contest back into even territory by the 14th hole. But Green took over from there, leading his team to a point with birdies at the 15th and 17th to take the contest.
Match 3 – Hideto Tanihara & Phachara Khongwatmai 2UP vs Alex Noren & Paul Dunne
Tanihara and Khongwatmai seemed comfortably ahead when they made their fourth birdie of the day at the 13th hole. But Noren struck back with vengeance, striking back to back birdies to reduce the European’s deficit to just one. But Tanihara raised his game just at the right time to ensure the duo finished on a high taking the 18th hole.
Match 4 – Sunghoon Kang & Poom Saksansin 5&4 vs Henrik Stenson & Alexander Levy
This was the surprise result of the day. Playing against the formidable European duo, Kang and Saksansin knew they had to bring out their best to the course. And they did just that, producing five birdies in the first seven holes to race far ahead of their opponents. Levy pulled one back with a birdie at the ninth, but Saksansin shut the door when he took the 14th hole for his team.
Match 5 – Nicholas Fung & Haotong Li vs Bernd Wiesberger & Rafa Cabrera Bello (Halved)
This is a draw that felt like the biggest victory of the day for the Asian team. The resilience and mental strength of the Malaysian and Chinese were tested to the limit and the duo passed in flying colours. Fung and Li reached the turn, up by two, but Cabrera Bello struck without warning, reeling four birdies in five holes to snatch the initiative. As hard as they tried, Fung and Li could only share spoils from there, reaching the 18th with a deficit of one.
The entire Asian team was on the ground by now and following this group. As they cheered every shot lustily, Haotong fired his approach, laying up to the left of the flag, about 8 feet away. Wiesberger was closest to the Chinese and when his putt rolled past the pin, it fell to Li to attempt a birdie to win the hole and halve the match. The young player did just that, earning great praise from his captain and his team mates.
Match 6 – Anirban Lahiri & SSP Chawrasia vs Ross Fisher & Tyrrell Hatton 5&4
The final match of the day was meant to be an even contest. And it felt that way through the front nine, before the Europeans picked up the pace and finished off in style. Along the way there was some magic from Chawrasia, but both friends struggled to find their best golf on Friday.
Chawrasia’s best moment of the day came at the third – where he flew too far left from the middle of the fairway. So far left that he found his ball behind the giant scoring screen adjoining the third and fourth holes. After a lengthy deliberation with the referee, Chawrasia somehow threaded the ball between a tree and an electric pole to land safely on the green. He then made his best putt of the day, nailing a birdie from 15 feet to ensure that they halved the hole, despite all the drama.
But Fisher took hold with a string of three birdies in four holes leading to the ninth and the match started to slip away for the Indians. Birdies at the 11th and 14th sealed the point for the English duo.
The foursomes is going to be an entirely different challenge though. And it will take some spirited golf from the underdogs to ensure that they retain their edge over the formidable European team. The Saturday contest will see the golfers playing alternate shots. Camaraderie will have to be substantiated by technical nous as they alternate between drivers and irons to produce an array of good shots from tee to fairway and from there to the greens, from the lie offered by the partner.
While Asia is going into Saturday unchanged, Europe makes substantive changes to their pairings.
Foursome Matches – All times IST
0705hrs – Tommy Fleetwood & Henrik Stenson vs Anirban Lahiri & SSP Chawrasia
0715 – Paul Casey & Tyrrell Hatton vs Kiradech Aphibarnrat & Beyonghun An
0725 – Rafa Cabrera Bello & Alexander Levy vs Gavin Green & Yuta Ikeda
0735 – Matthew Fitzpatrick & Thomas Pieters vs Poom Saksansin & Sunghoon Kang
0745 – Paul Dunne & Alex Noren vs Phachara Khongwatmai & Hideto Tanihara
0755 – Ross Fisher & Bernd Wiesberger vs Haotong Li & Nicholas Fung