Darren Clarke’s Team Europe lead 4½ – 1½ after winning four of Friday’sFourball matches, with Asia taking one and the other ending all square at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club.
Bernd Wiesberger and Ian Poulter, one of the star performers in Europe’s recent Ryder Cup victories, put the visitors’ first point on the board after defeating Anirban Lahiri and Jeunghun Wang 4 & 3 in the top match.
Europe did not have to wait long for their second point, with Ross Fisher and Kristoffer Broberg posting a comfortable 6 & 4 victory over Prayad Marksaeng and K.T. Kim in match four as a wave of blue scores dominated the early scoreboard.
Team Asia, led by captain Jeev Milkha Singh, fought back to take their first point shortly after when Byeonghun An and Thongchai Jaidee, the team’s highest world ranked players, completed a stunning turnaround to defeat Danny Willett and Matt Fitzpatrick 3 & 1.
Europe made it 3-1 when Shane Lowry and Andy Sullivan beat Wu Ashun and Shingo Katayama 2 & 1 before Søren Kjeldsen and Victor Dubuisson, who was struggling with a knee injury on the back nine, halved their match with home favourites Danny Chia and Nicholas Fung in what was the most thrilling encounter.
Lee Westwood and Chris Wood then beat Kiradech Aphibarnrat and S.S.P. Chawrasia 2 & 1 in the last match to round off a successful day for Team Europe.
European captain Clarke was thrilled with his team’s start in the EurAsia Cup, which ended in a tantalizing 10-10 tie two years ago. He said: “It’s a wonderful start for Europe. There were a lot of matches there where it could have swung either way on the back nine.
“Halfway round, Europe were leading in all the matches. I was on the radio to a few of the other guys and said, ‘this is match play, Asia are going to come back at some stage on the back nine, and that’s exactly what they did.’
“We had a strong couple matches and managed to finish with a very good result.”
Singh, a former two-time Asian Tour number one, was delighted with the team’s lone win from An and Thongchai and the half point from battling local heroes Chia and Fung.
“Thinking and going back to two years ago (where Europe led 5-0 on day one), I think this year, we got 1 ½ points in the Fourball and I think that’s the positive I’m looking at.
“My team played really well. They were just a little unlucky with their putts but that’s what the game is all about, whoever holes them, wins. I think they are going to work pretty hard on their putting for tomorrowand the day after,” said Singh.
“An and Thongchai, the way they came back on the back nine was fantastic to watch. I think they did an excellent job, and you know, once they won, Danny and Nicholas also had the momentum on the back nine.
“They holed a few putts, and especially after Soren Kjeldsen chipped in on the 17th, Nicholas chipped in to keep the match all-square. I was right there and enjoyed it. On 18, I think especially, the way Danny hit one of the toughest chips I can say, and he chipped it and he holed the putt, half-point there. I think both of them combined really well.”
Friday’s Fourball Results :
Europe 4 ½ Asia 1 ½
(Team Europe First)
Ian Poulter/Bernd Wiesberger bt Anirban Lahore/Jeunghun Wang 4 & 3
Danny Willett/Matthew Fitzpatrick lost to Byeonghun An/Thongchai Jaidee 3 & 1
Victor Dubuisson/Soren Kjeldsen halved with Danny Chia/Nicholas Fung
Ross Fisher/Kristoffer Broberg bt Prayad Marksaeng/K.T. Kim 6 & 4
Shane Lowry/Andy Sullivan bt Shingo Katayama/Wu Ashun 2 & 1
Lee Westwood/Chris Wood bt S.S.P. Chawrasia/Kiradech Aphibarnrat 2 & 1