Atwal names potent young team for EurAsia Cup

Team Asia captain Arjun Atwal has announced a young and talented squad for the 2018 EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM, featuring the likes of current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Gavin Green of Malaysia, Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat, India’s SSP Chawrasia and China’s Li Hao-tong.

Green, Chawrasia and young Thai talents Phachara Khongwatmai and Poom Saksansin make up the leading four Asian players on the Order of Merit who qualified for Team Asia in the third edition of the biennial event, to be played at Glenmarie Golf & Country Club on January 12-14.

Japanese No 2 Yuta Ikeda, 2015 Asian Tour No 1 Anirban Lahiri of India and Kiradech earned their spots as the leading available Asians in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). Ikeda, who won three times on Japan Golf Tour this season, is the highest-ranked player in the team at 37 in the OWGR.

Korea’s Byeonghun An, who represented Team Asia in the second edition in 2016, will make his return after being selected as a captain’s pick. Joining him as wildcards are Hideto Tanihara of Japan and Nicholas Fung of Malaysia, who will make their third appearances in the event, and another Korean, debutante Sunghoon Kang.

Team Asia have a combined total of 58 titles won worldwide, while six players in the 12-man team are still in their 20s. Phachara is the youngest at 18 and Tanihara is the oldest at 39.

“Most of our players are still in their 20s but they have achieved huge success at a young age and have established themselves in the game,” said Atwal. “Seven players in my team are ranked inside the top-100 on the Official World Golf Ranking and this underlines the strength of Team Asia. This is a strong team and it will be our goal to win the EurAsia Cup.

“We will face a strong Team Europe but I have faith in every member in my team. I’ve already mapped out a game plan to keep the players motivated and battle-ready when the tournament starts.”

The 23-year-old Green, who will represent Team Asia for the first time, has enjoyed a splendid 2017 season where he won his first Asian Tour title and finished runner-up three times.

“The EurAsia Cup is a huge thing and it is a totally different ball game as compared to a stroke-play event. It is a team event and everyone gathers like a big family. I hope a lot of Malaysian fans come out and support Team Asia,” said Green.

China’s Li will also make his first appearance in the event, dubbed the ‘Ryder Cup of the East’. The talented Chinese holds one victory on the European Tour and is currently ranked 57th in the OWGR thanks largely to a third-place result at The Open.

Kiradech is also coming off a solid 2017 where he finished second at the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship.

Atwal will also rely on the experience of countrymen Lahiri, who represented Team Asia in the last two editions, and Chawrasia who successfully defended the Hero Indian Open earlier this year.

“The knowledge of playing in team match-play is crucial and the experience of players like Lahiri, Chawrasia, An and Kiradech will be very important in the team. It is a nice mix of experienced and new players which have huge potential,” said Atwal, who selected Chinese legend  Zhang Lian-wei as his vice-captain.

Poom qualified for the team through the Order of Merit thanks to one victory and a runner-up result in Japan. The fearless Phachara, a two-time runner-up in 2017, is another new addition to team alongside Kang, who also finished second twice on the US PGA Tour this year.

The EurAsia Cup will feature 24 matches, with day one showcasing six fourball matches, followed by six foursomes on day two and 12 singles on the final day.

Team Europe will feature Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Paul Casey, Paul Dunne, Ross Fisher, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Levy, Alex Noren, Thomas Pieters, Henrik Stenson and Bernd Wiesberger.

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