Saturday, 13 January 2018 | MYT 12:00 AM
Team Asia can be excused for celebrating like they’ve won the Cup
TEAM Asia celebrated as if they have won the title shortly after Li Haotong sank a 10-foot birdie on the final hole that gave his team a shocking 3½-2½ lead over defending champions Team Europe at the EurAsia Cup.
Captain Arjun Atwal and his 12-man side can surely be excused for doing so after a sensational start in the opening six fourball matches at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club yesterday.
It must have felt like a victory – of sorts – for the Asians, considering the home side have never once been in the lead since the biennial Ryder Cup-style tournament’s inception in 2014.
China No. 1 Haotong’s brilliant effort ensured his combination with Malaysia’s Nicholas Fung contributed an invaluable half point by sharing the spoils with Austrian-Spaniard pairing Bernd Wiesberger-Rafa Cabrera-Bello.
Haotong-Nicholas were 1-down prior to the final hole.
Said Haotong on his crucial putt: “Glad that I did it. It makes me feel very, very good. I didn’t play that well the whole day. I’ve got a lot of pressure. But this is my first EurAsia Cup and I didn’t want to lose.”
The Asians were 3-2 ahead thanks to earlier wins from Poom Saksansin-Kang Sung-hoon, Gavin Kyle Green-Yuta Ikeda and Hideto Tanihara-Phachara Khongwatmai.
But it was the Europeans who drew first blood when English pairing Paul Casey, a two-time Ryder Cup winner, and Tommy Fleetwood registered a comprehensive 4&3 victory over Byeong-hun-Kiradech in the first match.
Home favourite Gavin, however, impressed in his debut to help the Asians level the tie.
Partnering Japan’s Yuta Ikeda, the Asian Tour No. 1 birdied two of his last three holes to overcome Thomas Pieters-Matthew Fitzpatrick 2&1 before Poom Saksansin-Kang Sung-hoon put the Asians ahead for the first time by crushing Henrik Stenson-Alexander Levy 5&4.
Both teams were back all square temporarily when all-English pairing Ross Fisher and Tyrrell Hatton defeated Indian duo Anirban Lahiri-S.S.P Chawrasia 5&4. But the Asians got back 3-2 in front through Hideto Tanihara-Phachara Khongwatmai who edged Alex Noren-Paul Dunne 2-up.
Arjun was grinning from ear-to-ear following the brilliant start. The Asians failed to win a single match in 2014 and found themselves 4½-1½ down in 2016.
“I’m really happy with how it went today. Li Haotong is my superstar!” said Arjun.
“That (putt) was very, very important. Not just for me but for the whole team. It gives us the psychological edge.
But Arjun was also quick to remind the team not to get carried away.
“It’s a good start. But I don’t want to sound cocky with a team like Europe,” added Arjun, who has retained all the six pairings for today’s foursomes fixtures.