Kuala Lumpur, January 22: Newly crowned Asian Tour number one Kiradech Aphibarnrat will be amongst a quartet of talented young guns to represent Team Asia at the inaugural EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM in Malaysia from March 27-29.
The burly Thai, the first of four automatic qualifiers from the final 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit which concluded on Sunday, will be joined by Bangladeshi star Siddikur Rahman, who finished fourth on the rankings and Indian duo Anirban Lahiri and Gaganjeet Bhullar, who were third and fifth on the Merit list respectively.
Team Asia’s playing captain Thongchai Jaidee said: “I am delighted that Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Siddikur Rahman, Anirban Lahiri and Gaganjeet Bhullar have qualified as the top-four Asians and also accepted the invitation to represent Team Asia for the EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM. The four players enjoyed wonderful seasons and I am confident they will represent Asia with pride and vigour as we seek to beat Europe in the inaugural contest at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club.
“All four players are in their 20s and they have proven themselves to be the new flag bearers for the Asian Tour. It has been exciting to see how they have developed into world-class players with their high level of consistency and performances. I know I can rely upon them to deliver the points against Europe.
“Kiradech has enjoyed a phenomenal rise with some truly eye-catching finishes in Asia and around the world, including winning in Malaysia last year, and his brand of attacking golf is perfect for matchplay golf. Anirban and Gaganjeet are also renowned for their big-hitting games which saw them winning once each in 2013 and I believe they will be very strong opponents against any European player or combination.
“It is also fantastic to see Siddikur coming through as one of our top-four Asian players from the Merit list. He has matured into a top player in Asia and has finished in the top-10 of the Order of Merit in three of the last four seasons, which is a great accomplishment.”
Kiradech, 24, produced an outstanding 2013 campaign where he won the Maybank Malaysian Open and registered five other top-five finishes to be crowned Asia’s new number one. He also finished tied fifth in the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf and is currently ranked 60th in the world.
“I am really excited to play in the EurAsia Cup which I believe will be a great new tournament. As the Order of Merit champion, I will represent Team Asia with pride and will do my very best to fight for the team’s honour. I love playing in Malaysia due to my success there and I’m sure the fans will come out in numbers to support me and Team Asia as we aim to become the first champions of the EurAsia Cup. The standard of play amongst the Asian players has risen over the years and we are capable of matching and beating the Europeans,” said Kiradech.
Lahiri, a three-time winner of the Asian Tour and tied third at the season-ending King’s Cup Golf Hua Hin over the weekend, is confident he can contribute towards Team Asia’s goal of winning the EurAsia Cup.
“I’ve been playing very consistent golf and I hope to bring this form to the team. It’s going to be a very exciting competition between Team Asia and Team Europe and for the fans, I’m sure they’ll be in for a treat. I’m going to give it my best,” said 26-year-old Lahiri, who won the SAIL-SBI Open in India last year.
The 29-year-old Siddikur, who finished a career-high fourth on the 2013 Order of Merit, cannot wait to line up alongside the cream of Asian golf to face Europe in Malaysia.
“I’m very happy to represent Team Asia. It’s a big achievement for me and also my country. There’s huge national pride at stake and it’s always an honour to represent your country or continent, like when I did during the World Cup last year. I feel very proud to be part of what I believe will be a very strong Asian team and I know we’ll do well together,” said Siddikur, who is the reigning Hero Indian Open champion.
The 25-year-old Bhullar, winner of five Asian Tour titles including last November’s Indonesia Open, said: “It is a great honour and privilege for me to qualify and represent Team Asia. When this event was announced last year, I made it a goal of mine to qualify for the team and I’m glad I’ve achieved this. It will be a pleasure to line-up alongside nine other great Asian players. Europe has the pedigree in matchplay golf but I can tell you that the Asians will be fighting hard till the very last putt to win the first EurAsia Cup. There is no reason why we cannot win this event as we will have a very strong Team Asia on show.”
Datuk Mohamed Razeek Md Hussain, Chief Operating Officer, Services and Properties, DRB-HICOM Berhad, said: “We are delighted to see a very strong Team Asia shaping up with four talented and young golfers qualifying for the EurAsia Cup. With Europe already announcing their first four players as well, it is developing into a very exciting inaugural event.”
Team Europe’s playing captain Miguel Angel Jimenez has previously announced his first four players – Graeme McDowell, Victor Dubuisson, Fernandez Gonzalo-Castano and Jamie Donaldson – from the final Race to Dubai rankings. Jimenez and Thongchai will finalise the remaining five members of their teams in early February through the Official World Golf Rankings and captains’ picks.
Organisers have also made a minor change in the format of play with the first day (March 27, Thursday) now showcasing five fourball matches, followed by five foursomes matches on day two (March 28, Friday) and 10 singles matches on the final day (March 29, Saturday) at Glenmarie’s Garden Course.