Thongchai, An give Asia a glimmer of hope

Thongchai Jaidee and Byeonghun An ©Khalid Redza|Asian Tour

Shah Alam [SELANGOR]: Thongchai Jaidee and Byeonghun An lived up to their top billing for Team Asia by securing a convincing 3 & 1 win over Danny Willet and Matthew Fitzpatrick as Team Europe raced to a three-point lead after day one of the EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM.

Thongchai and An, ranked 27th and 29th in the world respectively, fought back from 2-down at the turn to clinch a morale boosting point for Team Asia at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club.

Europe dominated the Fourball session early in the day before the Thai and Korean combo fought back with a vengeance, with An nailing an eagle and three straight birdies on his back nine to seal the point.

Europe 4 ½ Asia 1 ½

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

“We were 2-down and I looked at the board and it was all blue. I didn’t care about the other guys, because I know they’ll do well, and the first thing that came to my mind was we had to win our match,” said the 24-year-old An, who was named European Tour Rookie of the Year in 2015.

“But even when we were down, I still had confidence as Thongchai is obviously a good player. We make a great team. He can take care of me when I hit a bad shot and I can cover when he hits a bad shot.”

Thongchai’s three birdies on the outward nine kept the Asian pair in the match before An’s brilliance took over. Captain Jeev Milkha Singh has retained the winning partnership, sending them out in the first match against Ian Poulter and Danny Willett for Saturday’s Foursomes session.

Thongchai was pleased to strike a strong partnership with An and is confident they can continue their winning ways. “I enjoy playing with my partner (An). I know his game and he knows mine. So that’s important. I’ve more experience and will guide him along but overall, we work very well together,” said Thongchai.

The power-packed An said captain Singh kept the team’s spirit up despite the wave of blue scores early on day one.

“We saw him a couple times. He always mentioned to us, ‘we are the best players in the world.’ That gave me a lot of confidence. Even when we were losing, he says ‘you guys are the best team and you will do well and you guys are champions,’” said An.

“He definitely has 100 per cent belief in us. Definitely that gives me a lot of confidence. Even when we were losing, definitely those are great things to hear and that gave me a lot of boost and confidence. I heard it on No. 11 before my eagle putt, and since that eagle putt, I think I played quite well the last eight holes.

Singh was delighted his decision to pair Thongchai, the only player to win three Asian Tour Order of Merit crowns, and An paid off handsomely. “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, it rubbed off on Danny (Chia) and Nicholas (Fung).

“I’ve paired them again as obviously they played well and are high on confidence. I want them to go out first and start the momentum,” said Singh