Asia staged a dramatic comeback against defending champions Europe to hang on to a one-point lead Saturday in the second day of the EurAsia Cup in Malaysia.
The result in the foursome matches sets up a tense showdown for Sunday’s singles, with Indian captain Arjun Atwal’s team fighting for Asia’s first ever victory in the Ryder Cup-style match play tournament.
Europe were firmly in control in the early stages Saturday and Asia, who started the day a point ahead, saw their lead vanish as skipper Thomas Bjorn’s side won the first three matches.
But victory for Yuta Ikeda of Japan and Malaysia’s Gavin Green proved the turning point for Asia, and they went on to win the final two games and end the day on 6 1/2 to Europe’s 5 1/2.
Atwal praised his team, saying they had “hung in there” in the face of an onslaught from Team Europe.
“If you asked me if I’m surprised or shocked, I’m not. My guys are all champions,” he said.
But he insisted his 12-man team were not cruising towards an easy win in the $4.8 million tournament: “It’s almost anybody’s game tomorrow.”
Europe thrashed Asia at the last EurAsia Cup in 2016 while the inaugural edition in 2014 ended in a tie.
Bjorn – who is also Europe’s Ryder Cup captain – conceded the day’s play had “turned on its head in the end”.
“But we live to fight another day,” he added.
Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson gave the Europeans a strong start by beating Indian duo Anirban Lahiri and S.S.P. Chawrasia 3-2.
Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton, both from England, put Team Europe ahead with a 2-1 victory over Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and South Korea’s An Byeong-Hun.
A 3-2 victory for England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters against Thailand’s Poom Saksansin and South Korea’s Kang Sung-hoon extended Team Europe’s lead to two points.
But the tide turned in favour of the Asians with a dramatic victory for Green and Ikeda at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club near Kuala Lumpur.
The pair notched up three birdies on the final four holes for a one-hole victory over Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello and Alexander Levy of France.
Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai and Japan’s Hideto Tanihara beat Ireland’s Paul Dunne and Alex Noren of Sweden, and Asia’s comeback was complete with a 3-1 victory for China’s Li Haotong and Malaysian Nicholas Fung.
The pair’s impressive win featured six birdies.