Strong European line-up for EurAsia defence

Tommy Fleetwood ©Getty

KUALA LUMPUR: A full house of 12 European Tour winners, incorporating the 2016 Open Champion and six Ryder Cup players, make up the European Team named on Thursday for next year’s EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM in Malaysia.

Led by Thomas Bjørn – eight months before he skippers Europe in The Ryder Cup in France – the European Team will tackle Asia in the third staging of the biennial contest, which will once again take place at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club from January 12-14, 2018.

Europe will be looking to retain the trophy they won in convincing fashion by 18 ½ – 5 ½ in 2016, but will face a strong Asian team on home soil captained, for the first time, by India’s Arjun Atwal.

Leading the ten automatic qualifiers from the 2017 Race to Dubai Rankings is Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, who finished European number one after a thrilling end to the season at the DP World Tour Championship.

Joining Fleetwood as automatic qualifiers are his fellow Englishmen Tyrrell Hatton, Ross Fisher and Matthew Fitzpatrick, Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger, Ireland’s Paul Dunne, Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, and the Swedish duo of Alex Noren and Henrik Stenson.

Completing the European Team are the two wildcard selections named by Captain Bjørn, Englishman Paul Casey and Alex Levy of France.

Casey will bring vital experience of the match play realm through his Ryder Cup appearances which included being part of Europe’s back-to-back nine-point triumphs in 2004 and 2006, while Levy will bring his own particular brand of French flair, with golf fans in his home country hoping that he can go on to become the fourth Frenchman to play in The Ryder Cup in his home country next September.

Thomas Bjorn &copy’Asian Tour

Captain Bjørn, who played in the inaugural EurAsia Cup match in 2014 which ended in a 10-10 tie, said: “The interest from the players has been very strong and you can see that from the fact that the ten automatic qualifiers come from within the top 20 of the final Race to Dubai Rankings. That is a good indication of what the EurAsia Cup is becoming, and I think European golf is in a great place right now.

“I’m very encouraged by the make-up of the team and we are strong from 1 through to 12. I have some great experience in terms of six players who have experienced Ryder Cups, as well as the 2016 Open champion in Henrik. But I also have some exciting young talent led by Tommy and Tyrrell.

“Obviously Tommy has had an amazing year and deserved to be crowned European Tour Number One last weekend. But Tyrrell has also had a great season, the highlights of which were his back-to-back wins in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the Italian Open last month.

“As captain, I am looking forward to seeing how all 12 deliver on this particular stage. It’s a different kind of format to what they are used to week‑in, week‑out, so it will be interesting to see how they react to that environment.

“It’s a great honour for me to be captain and I’m looking forward to going to Malaysia in January to face what I know will be a very strong Asian team. We want to win the EurAsia Cup again and I believe we are going with a team very capable of doing that.”