Shah Alam, 11 January, 2018: The captains have made their move. In a glittering opening ceremony, embellished by a traditional Malaysian performance, Thomas Bjorn and Arjun Atwal set the table for an exciting start to the third edition of the EurAsia Cup. The two captains drew wild cheers as they announced their pairings for what promises to be an intense EurAsia Cup battle.
Bjorn decided to field his best at the start, while Atwal seemed to save his best for the last. Tommy Fleetwood is the man of the moment, having clinched the Race to Dubai title at the fag end of a sensational week in Dubai. Paul Casey is eager to play in the Ryder Cup and this week offers him a chance to showcase his skills to the captain.
“I am 40, cannot be sure how many opportunities I might have to play in the Ryder Cup,” explained Casey. “I want to go out there and do my best. Obviously, try and start working for a spot on the team. It is a process and it starts here.” Casey and Fleetwood will take on Byeonghun An and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
Casey’s match play experience alone is more than that of the Asian team combined. The Englishman has featured in 59 individual and 23 team matches, compared to 52 and 30 for Team Asia.
In the second match, Thomas Pieters and Matthew Fitzpatrick – two of the most exciting young talents in Europe will battle against the highest ranked Asian, Yuta Ikeda and the Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Gavin Green. It promises to be a grand battle, but we would be foolish to forget that Pieters, with four out of a possible five points in Hazeltine, is the best ever Ryder Cup rookie.
Speaking of rookies, Henrik Stenson and Alexander Levy will step out this week as EurAsia Cup rookies, but experience will not be their shortcoming. At world No.9, the Swede is highest ranked man in the field this week.
As expected, Anirban Lahiri and SSP Chawrasia play in tandem this week. The Indian duo will go up against Tyrrell Hatton and Ross Fisher – both Europeans in great form. But the experienced Indian duo have the advantage of knowing each other for nearly as long as their golfing careers and a fine chemistry them could pose a serious threat to the Europeans in the final pairing of the first day.
“I think the matches are evenly balanced,” insisted a confident Arjun Atwal. “The boys know exactly what needs to be done, so that makes my job easy. I am here to inspire them, but they are all champions and have it all within them.”
Anirban is a seasoned campaigner in the team competitions, having played in the Presidents Cup besides the EurAsia Cup. “It is all down to execution,” said the 66th ranked Indian. “In these situations, it is all about putting well. If each of us make five or six birdies tomorrow, Asia will finish on top at the end of the first day. Putting well is going to be key. We have to just focus on our own game and go do our best.”
Match 1: 8.35AM Tommy Fleetwood & Paul Casey vs Byeonghun An & Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
Match 2: 8.50AM Thomas Pieters & Matthew Fitzpatrick vs Yuta Ikeda & Gavin Green.
Match 3: 9.05AM Alex Noren & Paul Dunne vs Hideto Tanihara & Phachara Khongwatmai.
Match 4: 9.20AM Henrik Stenson & Alexander Levy vs Sunghoon Kang & Poom Saksansin.
Match 5: 9.35AM Rafa Cabrera Bello & Bernd Wiesberger vs Li Haotong & Nicholas Fung.
Match 6: 9.50AM Tyrrell Hatton & Ross Fisher vs S.S.P. Chawrasia & Anirban Lahiri.