The opening match of the 2018 EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM will see the English duo of Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey take on Byeong-hun An and Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the first fourball match of the biennal contest between Europe and Asia.
With Arjun Atwal’s strong Asian side hosting an all-star Team Europe captained by Thomas Bjørn, there are plenty of mouth-watering clashes to come on Friday at Glenmarie Golf & Country Club in Kuala Lumpur.
The Dane has entrusted Fleetwood – the 2017 Race to Dubai winner and European Number One – to deliver Team Europe’s first point alongside his fellow countryman in Casey, who boasts an impressive match play record, having represented Europe at The Ryder Cup on three occasions in 2004, 2006 and 2008.
The second match sees Ryder Cup stars Thomas Pieters and Matthew Fitzpatrick taking on Asian Tour Number One Galvin Green and Yuta Ikeda, with Alex Noren and Paul Dunne set to make their EurAsia Cup debuts against Hideto Tanihara and the tounament’s youngest player, 18 year old Phachara Khongwatmai in match three.
The 2016 Open Champion Henrik Stenson will partner Frenchman Alex Levy against Sunghoon Kang and Poom Saksansin, while Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger will battle it out against Chinese Number One Li Haotong and Nicholas Fung.
The final match up pits English duo Tyrrell Hatton and Ross Fisher up against an all Indian team in S.S.P Chawrasia and Aniban Lahiri.
Thomas Bjørn: “We knew that the pairings from the Asian team was going to be strong, so we respect what we’re up against and we concentrate on ours. We’ve got some very strong pairings, and I’ve got all confidence in these 12 guys. You know, this is a team of 12 and I believe in all 12 of them equally.
“There’s so many things. You look at stature of a player and you look at form. Most guys come in here from a period away and then you look at stats and then you look at finishes. There’s so many things that plays into it, and you’ve got to take all of that in, because you can’t just go on the stats if people don’t particularly gel well together; but you can’t also just go on friendship if it doesn’t make sense on the golf course.”
“I looked through all the different aspects and when you’ve got to get all 12 out playing, you don’t necessarily always get one guy playing exactly with the person he wants to play with, but that’s being part of a team and you accept that everything is not going to be exactly the way you want it in your head.
“I believe we are off to a good start with the pairings we have this week. I’ve worked close with the stats guys and I’ve talked to the players, I’ve talked to the senior players and I’ve talked to the young ones but that’s a natural thing of it. I think we’re in a good place with the pairings we have.
Paul Casey: “The European Tour has made the choice really a no brainer. Plus the fact that I know that at 40, how many more Ryder Cups do I have the opportunity to play in. Thomas, we have a very good history, and we discussed it. I felt like I was missing out a couple years ago, watching Darren Clarke and his great team and not being in The Ryder Cup was a huge factor.
“So I’d love to be a part of it. We’re a long, long way from it, but another opportunity is what I’m here for and make myself eligible, and this is really just the start of it, begins this week, so really excited to be back.
“We’ve been paired up before a few years ago in the Seve Trophy and we had success as a team. I would play with any of the guys of the 11 that I have the possibility of partner. They are all amazing and Tommy (Fleetwood), I’m the lucky one, and whatever he thinks of my game, I think his is amazing. I can’t wait.”
Henrik Stenson: “It’s always hard to tell but I think the most important thing for me is to be here and get the competition, as soon as you tee it up in match play, and especially a team event, you’re going to get the juices going and it’s game time.
“It tends to always be pretty tight in match play, a lot of games coming into the last couple holes and that’s when you get that little extra nerve to it and just playing for yourself and playing for your teammates and your team and Europe. It’s always good fun to be part of a team.”
Tommy Fleetwood: “This year it’s a different start for me, a lot more expectation and a lot more confidence I’ve built. The only way I’ve looked back is trying to look back and see where I can improve. Now I’ll start this week and next week and it doesn’t matter at all; you’ve got to start again and next week is the most important week and this week is the most important week. I want to play well for Thomas and I want to play well for my teammates.”