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Europe’s Ryder hopefuls face Asia in EurAsia

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Thomas Bjorn wikimedia/Alemarcoli

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn will run the rule over a heavyweight European team when he skippers them against Asia in this week’s EurAsia Cup.

Bjorn, who will captain Europe against USA in September, has six Ryder Cup veterans among his players as they take on Team Asia today.

All 12 of Bjorn’s team in Kuala Lumpur are European Tour winners, including world number nine Henrik Stenson and Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood.

It gives Denmark’s Bjorn a great chance to test players in a team environment before the showdown against USA in Paris.

But despite Europe’s emphatic 18 1/2 to 5 1/2 win over Asia last time around in 2016, Bjorn said he is taking nothing for granted.

“We’re very well aware that Asia has never fielded a stronger team than they do this time,” the Dane said, according to the European Tour website.

“Golf is a strange game. Whatever it says on the paper very rarely comes out on top. Golf in Asia is growing dramatically and the amount of players that are coming out of Asia in world golf shows where golf is going for the future.”

Team Asia captain Arjun Atwal said that his players also refused to see themselves as underdogs.

“Definitely everybody knows we are underdogs – except my team,” said Atwal.

“There is no such thing as an underdog in match play golf. You can be underdogs on paper, but once the matches start, anything can happen.”

The Asians have already proved they can match the Europeans, after they held them 10-10 at the inaugural EurAsia Cup in 2014.

Leading players on Atwal’s team include world number 36 Yuta Ikeda from Japan and world number 49 Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, Anirban Lahiri of India and South Korean star An Byeong-Hun.

Promising young Malaysian Gavin Green, the latest Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, is among a handful on the Asian side playing in the event at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club for the first time.

The $4.8 million EurAsia Cup runs until Sunday at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club.

A total of 24 points are on offer, meaning the first team to 12.5 points will win.

“Over 18 holes, anything can happen,” said Bjorn.

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