EurAsia Cup Preview, Picks & Analysis
THOMAS BJORN is to be congratulated upon his powers of persuasion. How else can you explain the strength of the European team that will take on Asia in the EurAsia Cup in Malaysia at the same time that the South African Open is being staged?
It makes a big difference that this happens to be a Ryder Cup year, of course, but Bjorn will be delighted with his team. It comprises Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Ross Fisher, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Paul Casey, Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger, Ireland’s Paul Dunne, Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, the Swedish pair of Alex Noren and Henrik Stenson, and Alex Levy, of France - most of these players are expected to make Bjorn's team to take on the USA in Paris.
Jon Rahm, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose are certain to play in France, and Bjorn would be happy to add any eight of the 12 he takes to Malaysia to complete his line-up.
This is the third staging the EurAsia Cup. When it was last played in 2016 Europe won 18½ -5½, and they will be expected to cruise to victory against Arjun Atwal's team, which comprises Ben An, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, SSP Chawrasia, Li Hao-tong, Anirban Lahiri, Gavin Green, Yuta Ikeda, Sunghoon Kang, Nicholas Fung, Hideto Tanihara, Poom Saksansin and Phachara Khongwatmai. Some of the names may be unfamiliar, but Atwal's young team have accumulated 58 titles between them and will be no pushovers.
Bjorn is especially pleased to have Casey on board. He was a member of Europe's successful Ryder Cup teams in 2004 and 2006 and has rejoined the European Tour after the personal intervention of the Dane.
Bjorn said: “The interest from the players has been very strong and you can see that from the fact that the 10 automatic qualifiers come from within the top 20 of the final Race to Dubai rankings [Casey and Levy were captain's picks]. That is a good indication of what the EurAsia Cup is becoming, and I think European golf is in a great place right now.
“I’m very encouraged by the make-up of the team and we are strong from one through to 12. I have great experience in terms of six players who have experienced Ryder Cups, as well as the 2016 Open champion in Henrik. But I also have some exciting young talent led by Tommy and Tyrrell.
“Tommy has had an amazing year but Tyrrell has also had a great season, the highlights of which were his back-to-back wins in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the Italian Open. This is a different kind of format to what they are used to week?in, week?out, so it will be interesting to see how they react to that environment.
“It’s a great honour for me to be captain and I’m looking forward to going to Malaysia in January to face what I know will be a very strong Asian team. We want to win the EurAsia Cup again and I believe we are going with a team very capable of doing that.”
“Once Paul announced he was rejoining the European Tour, and therefore making himself available for selection, the decision to select him was a no-brainer for me. He is a wonderful player with a lot of experience and the young guys can learn a lot from him.
“He's also got a fantastic matchplay record and not just in Ryder Cups. He is comfortable with where he is in his life right now and him wanting to part of the EurAsia Cup team also shows his commitment to the European Tour and the road he is now on.
“I have assembled a team which will hopefully go out and retain the EurAsia Cup, but I also have one eye on next September and selecting Alex [Levy] will give him a feeling of being part of what a team event feels like, as I know it's very much on his mind to try and make the Ryder Cup team.
“Therefore, to get him into the fold, help him develop, and give him great opportunities for the future is important. But this is also deserved for what he's delivered over the past couple of years. He got very close to qualifying for the team automatically and deserves his chance.”
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