Superb fightback puts Asia in sniffing range

Malaysian player Nicholas Fung representing the Asian team surveying the hole in front of a shot during the second round of the EurAsia 2018 Golf Tournament at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in Shah Alam, January 13, 2018. — Bernama pic
Malaysian player Nicholas Fung representing the Asian team surveying the hole in front of a shot during the second round of the EurAsia 2018 Golf Tournament at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in Shah Alam, January 13, 2018. — Bernama pic

SHAH ALAM, Jan 14 — Asia is pulling out all the stops to win its first ever EurAsia Cup in three editions of playing host — the tune wafting from the team’s locker room might be an unmistakeable “It’s the Final Countdown”.

Taking a one-point lead into today’s 12 Singles match-ups, Asia needs to keep the momentum going and not falter as traditionally, singles is the bastion of the Europeans.

Captain Arjun Atwal named his line-up with local boy Nicholas Fung to lead the way, like he did in 2014 when he almost halved his match with Miguel Angel Jimenez on the final hole. He lost 1-up.

“We had a meeting right after today’s play and when we went through the line-up, no one had a problem with it,” said Arjun.

“I asked Nicholas if he’d like to go first and he said ‘absolutely’ and I asked Li (Haotong) if he’d go last and he said ‘you can put me anywhere. My guys are so easy to work with that it’s very easy to make a line-up with them’.”

Team Europe with six rookies in the line-up may be rattled but captain Thomas Bjorn is feeling a little heat as he looks forward to the final day.

“In our case, the competitive awareness needs to get up a gear,” said Bjorn. “There are quite a few guys who need to up the ante and they know it. They will have a point to prove tomorrow.

“As for the singles, I have a good idea how I wanted to play them. Alex (Noren) starts as he’s been fantastic the past 18 months while my last player Paul (Dunne) is Irish and they have great history when it comes down to the final matches. The rest of them know the only thing they can do is to go and win their point.”

The match is poised to be one heck of a showdown. Asia has assembled one of its best teams and with Arjun’s charisma, they are showing the legion of fans that they are worthy opponents. A good start will be highly encouraging but it’s matchplay − anything can happen.

“We may have a lead but I don’t think Europe is in any way rattled by our performance,” said Arjun.

“We are only up by a point so it’s almost anybody’s game tomorrow. You must remember, it takes a lot to win a stroke-play tournament and every single one of my team are champions. I deal with all of them differently and in the end, I’m not their dad or teacher or anything. I’m just here to make them comfortable. I don’t give long speeches. In fact after today’s round and before deciding the singles line-up, it took two minutes.”

Arjun is on path to create history. If his brand of charisma, charm and affinity with his lads can make an impact today, it will go down as one of the finest moments in local golfing lore as no one has been able to galvanise Team Asia quite like he’s doing.

SINGLES MATCH-UPS

(today’s tee-off times)

Alex Noren (Eur) vs Nicholas Fung (Asia) 8.35am

Paul Casey (Eur) vs Poom Saksansin (Asia) 8.45am

Tommy Fleetwood (Eur) vs SSP Chawrasia (Asia) 8.55am

Henrik Stenson (Eur) vs Hideo Tanihara (Asia) 9.05am

Rafa Cabrera Bello (Eur) vs Gavin Green (Asia) 9.15am

Bernd Wiesberger (Eur) vs Phachara Khongwatmai (Asia) 9.25am

Alexander Levy (Eur) vs Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Asia) 9.35am

Thomas Pieters (Eur) vs An Byeonghun(Asia) 9.45am

Tyrell Hatton (Eur) vs Anirban Lahiri (Asia) 9.55am

Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eur) vs Kang Sunghoon (Asia) 10.05am

Ross Fisher (Eur) vs Yuta Ikeda (Asia) 10.15am

Paul Dunne (Eur) vs Li Haotong (Asia) 10.25am

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