Golf: Europe mount comeback to defend EurAsia Cup in style

Team Europe celebrate after winning the EurAsia Cup golf tournament in Glenmarie, Malaysia, on Jan 14.
Team Europe celebrate after winning the EurAsia Cup golf tournament in Glenmarie, Malaysia, on Jan 14.PHOTO: EPA
Team Europe captain Thomas Bjorn's side entered the final day of the tournament in Malaysia trailing Asia by one point but put on a masterclass in the singles, winning eight out of 12 matches.
Team Europe captain Thomas Bjorn's side entered the final day of the tournament in Malaysia trailing Asia by one point but put on a masterclass in the singles, winning eight out of 12 matches.PHOTO: EPA

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Europe came from behind to convincingly defeat Asia and retain the EurAsia Cup title on Sunday (Jan 14), in a boost for captain Thomas Bjorn as he gears up for the Ryder Cup.

Bjorn's side entered the final day of the tournament in Malaysia trailing Asia by one point but put on a masterclass in the singles, winning eight out of 12 matches.

They secured a 14 to 10 overall victory against Indian captain Arjun Atwal's men, a disappointment for Team Asia who had ended the first two days of the three-day event with a slim lead.

Team Asia has never won the biennial, Ryder Cup-style matchplay tournament.

Europe thrashed Asia the last time it was held in 2016 while the inaugural 2014 edition ended in a tie.

They dominated from the start on Sunday and their winning point came when Belgium's Thomas Pieters defeated South Korean An Byeong Hun in a hard-fought match.

Bjorn hailed his side's victory in the US$4.8 million (S$6.3 million) event: "It was a great performance today from every single one of them. There was a determination and a will of wanting to win this."

The Dane is also Europe's Ryder Cup captain and the Malaysian event was a chance for him to run the rule over a heavyweight European side before the showdown against the United States in France in September.

"I learned a lot about myself this week," said Bjorn, whose team included six Ryder Cup veterans.

"I learned a lot about these 12 players, and they have all got potential to be in Paris in nine months time."

Despite the loss, Atwal said he was "very proud" of his team. "They are all awesome players, it's just unfortunate that we ran into a buzzsaw today," he said.

"It looked like every time I watched my players, they were hitting the edges and it seemed Europe, every time I watched them, were either chipping in or making birdies."

Bjorn's side, all European Tour winners, won seven of the eight first matches on Sunday at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club near Kuala Lumpur.

In his showdown, Pieters started strongly by winning four of the first six holes against An to establish a strong lead but his opponent fought back and levelled the match.

Pieters scored a seven-foot putt at the 15th to move back out in front before winning another hole, ensuring Europe would retain the trophy.

"It's always nice to get the winning point," Pieters said. "I got off to a good start, then played pretty poorly during the middle, then made a couple of very good birdies."

Swede Alex Noren earlier got the Europeans off to a good start by beating Malaysia's Nicholas Fung 4-2 to level the tournament at 6 1/2 each.

Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello then defeated Malaysian Gavin Green 4-3, and victories followed for Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, world No. 9 Henrik Stenson and a host of other Europeans.

Asia salvaged some pride with three points from victories by Thai Poom Saksansin, Japanese Yuta Ikeda and China's Li Haotong.

South Korea's Kang Sung Hoon halved his match with Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick.