Team Asia close gap with Europe


Sat, Mar 29, 2014 - Page 20

Team Asia bounced back yesterday from a first-round drubbing in the inaugural EurAsia Cup, taking three out of five available points in foursome play on day two to close the gap with Europe.

Yesterday’s results brought the score to 7-3, keeping Team Asia’s slim hopes alive in a tournament clouded by a war of words between its organizers and those who stage the rival Royal Trophy competition.

Asia captain Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand shuffled his pack for the foursomes and it paid off, with two of his three new pairings winning their matches.

South Korea’s Kim Hyung-sung and Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand took a point for Team Asia, as did the pairing of Bangladesh’s Siddikur Rahman and Anirban Lahiri of India.

The other new Asian pairing of India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar and Nicholas Fung of Malaysia lost 2 and 1 to Graeme McDowell and Jamie Donaldson.

In order to win, Asia will need seven-and-a-half points from 10 available in today’s final-round singles play at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur.

Captain’s pick Fung, 23, who has played solidly, takes on Team Europe captain Miguel Angel Jimenez in the first match today.

Jimenez, 50, who shot two eagles on Thursday, was involved in another two yesterday, as he prepared to face a player young enough to be his son.

“Thongchai said I’ve been playing like a 22-year-old? Well, I move like one too,” joked Jimenez, who is hoping to qualify for September’s Ryder Cup in Scotland.

“I will be the oldest player to play in the Ryder Cup if I make it. I’ve been working hard and the results are showing,” added Jimenez, who is ranked No. 39 in the world.

“There is no pressure playing someone as young as Nicholas. We are in a good position and I hope we can close out the victory tomorrow,” he said.

Thongchai was delighted with yesterday’s results, but admitted it would be an uphill task to overtake Europe.

“There is still a chance, but Europe have been in this position many times before,” he said.

“We have another 10 points to play for. I understand what we need to do to win and I won’t put any pressure on my players. I want them to enjoy the tournament,” Thongchai added.

Controversy has surrounded the EurAsia Cup.

On Thursday, day one was marred when its organizers — the European and Asian Tours — came under fierce attack by the organizers of the Royal Trophy, a similar Europe v Asia event launched in 2006.

Royal Trophy co-managing director Ivan Ballesteros issued a statement calling the EurAsia cup an “act of aggression” and an “extremely negative development” for golf.

Ballesteros, nephew of late Spanish great Seve Ballesteros, said the EurAsia Cup undermined the Royal Trophy and violated earlier assurances by the two tours to respect the older competition.

The EurAsia Cup has become the latest skirmish in the battle for control of Asian golf, between the Asian Tour and its rival OneAsia, which supports the Royal Trophy and has been holding tournaments in the region since 2009.

European Tour chief executive George O’Grady and Asian Tour chairman Kyi Hla Han said in a statement yesterday that they “regret” the comments by Ballesteros.

“The EurAsia Cup offers The European Tour and the Asian Tour an opportunity to further develop the game of golf,” they said.