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.
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