Kuala Lumpur, March 28: Team Asia fought back gallantly by winning the second day’s foursome session at the inaugural EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM on Friday but trails Team Europe by four points heading into the final day’s singles session.
After the whitewash in the opening fourball on Thursday, Team Asia regained some measure of pride by winning the foursome session 3-2 at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club.
Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand and Korea’s Kim Hyung-sung put Asia on the board with a commanding 4 & 3 win over Danes Thomas Bjørn and Thorbjørn Olesen. India’s Anirban Lahiri holed a pressure-packed seven-foot par putt at the last hole as he and partner Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh hung on for a 1-hole victory over Dutchman Joost Luiten and Victor Dubuisson of France.
The top match also went the distance with Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal holing a six-foot birdie attempt on 18 as he and captain Miguel Angel Jiménez salvaged a halve with Asian captain Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand.
Japanese duo Koumei Oda and Hideto Tanihara recovered from 3-down at the turn to earn a halve with Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño of Spain and Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher while Europe’s lone win came through Major champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland and Welshman Jamie Donaldson who fought back from 2-down through eight holes to defeat Malaysia’s Nicholas Fung and Gaganjeet Bhullar of India 2 & 1.
Europe needs only three and a half points from the ten singles matches on Saturday to lift the first EurAsia Cup, but after today’s improved performance, Thongchai is hoping for a ‘miracle in Malaysia’, in the style of Europe’s unforgettable 2012 Ryder Cup comeback, when went into the last day singles four points behind the United States.
“Our team played very well today, caught up some points,” said Thongchai. “Really happy with three points. Seven and a half points to win …. In golf, you never know. We have another day. I told my players to make something happen.”
Jiménez was pleased his men produced two points on the day when red numbers featured prominently in the opening stages of the foursome session. “We had a very tight match. If you look at the scoreboard, it looks like the other side of the coin of what happened yesterday and for a while, we didn’t have any point. It’s going to be a tough day tomorrow. The tournament is still alive at 7-3. We are not used to this weather, and they have a good team. We’ll try to get the points as soon as possible,” said the veteran Spaniard, who will face off with Malaysia’s Nicholas Fung in the opening singles on Saturday.
Lahiri, a three-time Asian Tour champion, produced what was probably the putt of the day on 18 to narrow the gap on Jimenez’s men, who are all ranked inside the world’s top-70.
“That putt was pretty much the putt for the day. On the last hole, TJ (Thongchai) came in and he told us that Pablo also hit a hit a putt from there. I want to thank my coach, he’s worked really hard on my putting, so I’m glad I pulled it off,” said Lahiri.
“It’s nice to get a full point for the team and after yesterday, both of us were really psyched and focused on recovering and I’m glad that we contributed to our team. It would have been great if we got another point and a half but yes, the day definitely does belong to us.”
Kim, who partnered effectively with Prayad, said winning the foursomes would help Team Asia regain their confidence. “The gloves
have to come off. It feels good to win, so tomorrow will be a very critical match,” he said.
Larrazábal was pumped up after holing a birdie putt on 18 to secure a halve in the top match. “Looking at the results today, we needed that. Miguel told me, you know, walking up the fairway, we need to get a three to tie this match and we need this half point. It was a good match, playing the toughest team, the Thai guys,” said Larrazábal.
Kiradech, the reigning Asian Tour number one, was disappointed to let slip a win with Thongchai against the Spaniards. “This 50-year-old (Jimenez), the way he’s playing, he can win a Major. It was a tight match,” said Kiradech.
“I played solid on the front nine but when we had an important shot, I couldn’t make it. I should have played better than this. Thongchai is doing a great job. You can see that we’ve turned things around. He just told us this morning to go for it and show to the Europeans that we can fight with them. We have a lot of confidence coming back for tomorrow.”
Oda was delighted to come back from the dead with Tanihara against Fernandez-Castaño and Gallacher. “At first, the combination wasn’t very good and then the putter started getting hot. We didn’t want to go down without a fight. We gave it our all,” said the Japanese.
Donaldson was relieved he and McDowell took care of business against Fung and Bhullar despite being down early in their match. “At one point it was looking really smelly. It looked very, very red (with Asia leading in many matches). So for us to, like a lot of the guys, to turn that game around like we did yesterday was very important,” said the Welshman, the current leader of the Race to Dubai.
The EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour. Professional Golf Malaysia (PGM) will act as the local facilitator for the event.
Friday’s Foursome Results (Team Europe first)
Miguel Angel JIMENEZ/Pablo LARRAZÁBAL halved with Thongchai JAIDEE/ Kiradech APHIBARNRAT;
Prayad MARKSAENG/KIM Hyung-sung bt Thomas Bjorn/Thorbjorn OLESEN 4 & 3;
Gonzalo FDEZ-CASTANO/Stephen GALLACHER halved with Koumei ODA/Hideto TANIHARA ;
Anirban LAHIRI/SIDDIKUR Rahman bt Victor DUBUISSON/Joost LUITEN 1 hole;
Graeme MCDOWELL/Jamie DONALDSON bt Gaganjeet BHULLAR/Nicholas FUNG 2 & 1