Kuala Lumpur, January 11: With all 12 of their golfers in world's top-75, Europe seem the stronger side but Team Asia's "guts and hunger" would be enough to turn the tables on the defending champions when the two sides square off in the EurAsia Cup this week, Asia captain Arjun Atwal said on Thursday.
Team Asia has only seven in Top-100 for the third edition of the EurAsia Cup. Yet, Europe, who are also preparing for the Ryder Cup against the United States later this year, were not willing to take Asia lightly. Atwal issued a strong statement as he revealed his strongest pairings in the first and sixth match for Friday's opening Fourball matches.
With Asia having Tied 10-10 in the inaugural edition in 2014 and going down 18 ½ - 5 ½ in 2016, Atwal, leading the side for the first time, is keen on reversing that and register an upset win at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club.
"The matches look pretty balanced. But the players in my team are all champions and they all know how to win," said Atwal, a winner on multiple tours, ranging from Asia to Europe and US. "If you come into our team room, you'll see their banners up and each and every one of them holding trophies. It takes a lot of guts and hunger to win a golf tournament, and all 12 of my players have it."
Atwal chose to send out Korea's Byeong hun An, the European Tour Rookie of the Year in 2015, and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat to battle against England's Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour No. 1 and World No. 14. Paul Casey, a two-time runner-up at World Matchplay and member of winning teams in Ryder Cup, World Cup and Seve Trophy.
The Indian duo of Lahiri and SSP Chawrasia, who are great friends and rivals - having won all three Hero Indians Opens between them in last three years, will clash with England's Ross Fisher and Tyrrell Hatton.
"SSP and I are very comfortable playing with each other. We have great communication and we have played so much golf together. We were at the Olympics a couple years ago, and I think we have very complementary game styles," Lahiri said. "He's a great putter. I've been in good form finishing the year, so I feel confident with my game. Hopefully we can go out there and make a bunch of birdies," he added.
Chawrasia said he and Lahiri share an excellent rapport on the course. "We have played a lot of golf together and some practise rounds, too. We chose each other because we know each other's game and understand each other."
Asia's second pairing of Yuta Ikeda and Gavin Green will also prove to be a formidable one as Ikeda, the highest ranked Asian player at world number 36 is poised to strike a decisive partnership with Green, Asia's number one as they attempt to take down England's Matthew Fitzpatrick and Belgium's Thomas Pieters.
Atwal's strategic pairing of Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai and Japan's Hideto Tanihara where there is a mix of youth and experience could prove to be the difference as they face off with Sweden's Alex Noren and Ireland's Paul Dunne.
Atwal picked Korea's Sunghoon Kang for the fourth match with Thailand's Poom Saksansin while Team Europe's captain Thomas Bjorn opted for Major winner Henrik Stenson of Sweden and France's Alexander Levy. Malaysia's Nicholas Fung together with China's Li Haotong will then square off against Austria's Bernd Wiesberger in the fifth match before the Indian duo of Chawrasia and Lahiri take on Hatton and Fisher.
Pairings for fourball on Day 1: Match 1: T Fleetwood/ P Casey vs Byeong An/ Kiradech; Match 2: T Pieters/ M Fitzpatrick vs Yuta Ikeda/ G Green; Match 3: A Noren/ P Dunne vs H Tanihara/ P Khongwatmai; Match 4: H Stenson/Alex Levy vs Sunghoon Kang / P Saksansin; Match 5: Rafa Cabrera /B Wiesberger vs N Fung/ Li Haotong; Match 6: T Hatton/R Fisher vs A Lahiri/ SSP Chawrasia.