3 rea­sons the EurAsia Cup mat­ters

When Europe takes on Asia in the bi­en­nial EurAsia Cup this month, it will of­fer cap­tain Thomas Bjorn a dry run ahead of the Septem­ber’s Ry­der Cup. Though dis­missed by some as a non-event, this is why it mat­ters.

Golf World (UK) - - THE SPIN - Ide­ally, Thomas Bjorn will leave Malaysia know­ing sev­eral pair­ings he could put out in

1 We get to see Europe Ver­sion 1.0

There’s ob­vi­ously no guar­an­tee that the play­ers who face Asia in the EurAsia Cup will board the plane to Paris, but the bi­en­nial event is Thomas Bjorn’s best chance to look at the play­ers cur­rently in con­tention, plus the two cap­tain’s picks he wants to pay close at­ten­tion to. His team is drawn from the 10 men at the top of the 2017 Race To Dubai Rank­ing, plus his two picks of Paul Casey and French­man Alex Levy.

It’s a very strong team and a good mix of older heads and fast-ris­ing stars. Casey, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Thomas Pi­eters, Hen­rik Sten­son, Rafa Cabr­era-Bello and Ross Fisher all have Ry­der Cup pre­vi­ous, while Tommy Fleet­wood, Tyrrell Hat­ton and Alex Noren en­joyed hugely im­pres­sive sea­sons in 2017.

When you fac­tor in those Euro­peans who aren’t play­ing the EurAsia but will en­ter the think­ing for Paris – Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Ser­gio Gar­cia and Jon Rahm – it be­comes clear that Cap­tain Bjorn will have a very strong hand. Much can change in the next eight months, form and fit­ness are both capri­cious mis­tresses. But based on what we see here, re­ports of Europe’s demise ap­pear mis­placed.

2 Cap­tain Bjorn can mix and match

Paris. Should the fiery Hat­ton play along­side a calm head in Sten­son or the equally com­bustible Pi­eters or Levy? Would a Fleet­wood-Casey com­bi­na­tion be as good in re­al­ity as it ap­pears on pa­per? And while Rafa Cabr­era-Bello was good with Ser­gio at Hazel­tine, who would he part­ner if Bjorn plans a Gar­cia-Rahm part­ner­ship in Paris? There are many ques­tions for the cap­tain to an­swer and the EurAsia gives him a rare op­por­tu­nity to ask ques­tions. Watch­ing how he plays his hand will be very in­ter­est­ing.

Ahead of the 2016 EurAsia, Dar­ren Clarke was given a 50-page doc­u­ment out­lin­ing ev­ery­thing he needed to know about his play­ers. “Pair­ings, per­for­mance un­der pres­sure, con­sis­tency, which or­der the play­ers should tee off, the best four­balls, the best four­somes… ev­ery­thing con­ceiv­able,” mar­velled Clarke. That not a sin­gle EurAsia part­ner­ship was re­peated at Hazel­tine makes you won­der if he missed an op­por­tu­nity. Thomas Bjorn take note.

3 Europe should win – and win­ning is good

For those not look­ing any fur­ther than this one tour­na­ment, we pre­dict good news. We ex­pect Europe should re­tain the EurAsia Cup and may do so by as healthy a mar­gin as they did in 2016 – 18½ to 5½.

Thomas Bjorn de­scribes the Asian team as “very strong”, but he’s be­ing rather char­i­ta­ble to the hosts. While seven of Asia’s team are in­side the top 100 on the Of­fi­cial World Golf Rank­ing, only one of them (Yuta Ikeda) is in­side the top 50. Look fur­ther down and a lack of strength in depth is ap­par­ent. Gavin Green (ranked 174th in the world), Poom Sak­sansin (191st), Shiv Chawra­sia (207th), Phachara Khong­wat­mai (232nd) and Ni­cholas Fung (255th) show the gulf in class.

While vic­tory in this tour­na­ment is no pre­cur­sor to suc­cess in the Ry­der Cup, as Dar­ren Clarke showed, win­ning breeds con­fi­dence and will send Europe off with a spring in their step.

EurAsia Cup Glen­marie Golf & CC Kuala Lumpur Jan­uary 12-14 www.eurasi­acup.com

Im­pres­sive as the tro­phy is, the EurAsia Cup is a learn­ing process for Bjorn. 16 Golf World March 2017

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