Shane Lowry got some timely reminders about the special nature of matchplay golf and team bonding as Darren Clarke’s Europe showed Asia no mercy and claimed the EURASIA CUP presented by DRB-HICOM in crushing fashion — 18½-5½ — in steamy Malaysia.
The popular Offaly man might have followed two team wins alongside Andy Sullivan with a 2 and 1 defeat to rising Asian star Anirban Lahiri but he now knows what he might expect at top team matchplay level should he make Clarke’s Ryder Cup team to face the USA later this year.
Not only is a hot putter a crucial tool in this format — Lowry’s was lukewarm for most of the week — but team chemistry and the “craic” in the team room are clearly as important to Europe as any decisions made by the captain.
“It was obviously a shame that I lost today, but it’s still definitely been one of the best weeks of my career so far,” Lowry said. "I really enjoyed every minute of it.
"The lads have been great, and Darren has been great. The team room has been just the best craic ever. It’s one of these weeks which you’ll always remember.”
Looking ahead to a possible Ryder Cup debut, Lowry is now more determined than ever to make it and hopeful that the players who won the EurAsia Cup will use that experience as a positive if they are on the plane to Minnesota.
Lowry said: "I'm not sure, obviously a lot of us on the team, 12 on the team in September, and a lot of us here will tell you that we really want to be there and we really want to go over there.
"It's just we wanted to come here and treat this as the EurAsia Cup and nothing towards The Ryder Cup at all and just try and win this tournament.
"You know, we went out and we did our job and we did it really well. All the lads have been great this week and all the lads have played really well. Everyone has just kind of contributed a lot to the team room and on the golf course, as well.
"So it's just been -- overall it's been a great week. If times get tough at the Ryder Cup in September, and a few of us guys are there, maybe we can kind of think back on this week and it might give us a boost that week, as well."
Europe had a huge six-point lead overnight and Clarke, who had bolstered his team by adding the hugely experienced Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter as wildcards, was never going to permit any complacency.
The Europeans won nine of the 12 singles with Lowry and Bernd Wiesberger, who fell by 3 and 2 to KT Kim, the only losers against an Asian side that lacks the matchplay nous of the Europeans.
Jeunghun Wang ensured his match with Ross Fisher ended all square when he birdied the last. But it was the start, as so often happens in matchplay, the set the tone for Lowry and Europe.
Lahiri birdied the fourth and fifth to go two up and then birdied the ninth to extend his lead to three holes as Lowry struggled to find the bottom of the hole.
The Clara man is a fighter, however, and he birdied the 11th and 12th to cut the gap to one hole before missing a chance to get back to square.
The Indian then shut the door with a birdie at the 15th putting him two up and another (for a half) at the short 17th, closing out the match.
Lowry said: "I did [come up against a good player]. I struggled early on but I fought back well. I did what we talked about in the team room at the start of the week. When you get down, you just keep trying to win holes.
"I came back and missed a good chance to go back to all-square, which is a bit annoying, but he birdied 15 and 17 there to beat me. So just one of those things, he didn't miss much and I didn't hole much and that's the way the match went."
As in previous days Ian Poulter again set the tone for Europe, beating Danny Chia 4&3 to put some early blue on the board and quell any hopes of an unlikely fightback from Asia.
Once his fellow Englishmen Lee Westwood and Andy Sullivan had followed Poulter’s lead, beating Nicholas Fung (7&6) and Thongchai Jaidee (4&3) respectively, it was left to their compatriot Danny Willett to deliver the coup de grace.
Willett’s 3&1 defeat of Byeonghun An ensured Europe would become the first side to lift the trophy after the inaugural event in 2014 ended in a 10-10 draw.
Further victories for Matt Fitzpatrick, Chris Wood, Kristoffer Broberg, Victor Dubuisson and Søren Kjeldsen sealed a convincing win for Captain Clarke who agreed that experience was the difference between the teams.
"Most definitely,” Clarke said. "I think when you grow up playing a lot of match play as we in Europe, all of Europe we do, it's an art of the game. These guys all sitting up here, they have learnt that art of the game.
"Maybe a few of the younger guys have picked up a few more finer points of that game this week, but it is something that you learn, and you only learn it through playing it more and more.
"And this is match play at the highest level of the game. This is professional match play, where margins are so fine. So you've got to understand what you need to do to win.
“Doesn't matter how you play; you can play awful, doesn't matter. You've just got to play slightly better than your opponent. Look them in the eye and play better than him, and these guys up here know how to do that.”
How many of this 12 make it to Hazeltine remains to be seen but with Poulter, Westwood and Sullivan winning all three of their matches, they will be at the top of any potential queue for a captain’s pick.
Clarke added: “The team have played fantastic this week. I’ve thrown a couple of my ideas at them and aside from that, the team bonding that they have had has been brilliant.
"What Lee and Poults have brought to the team room has been priceless. They have been very, very good. All the young kids have listened to them, they have all learnt from them.
“So I think it’s been a hugely beneficial week. I always knew this was going to be a very strong team, and the way they have played this week, I have been very, very impressed.”
Westwood felt he helped the team with his experience, explaining: “There are some young lads on this team who are going to be playing in the Ryder Cup later in the year. This has been a great experience for them, just feeding them into team golf gradually.
"So I’m sure they will benefit hugely from this week – there are nothing but positives to come out of it.”
Poulter said: “Danny had nothing to lose so I had to come out and play strong, and that’s what I did today. I played pretty solid, holed some decent putts and obviously made it very difficult for him.
“It’s always nice to play match play golf, whether it’s the start or the end. It’s nice to get that buzz out on the golf course too, get that nervous feeling going.”
Irish Open champion Kjeldsen also believes the experience of Clarke, Poulter and Westwood made all the difference to Europe.
The Dane said: “It’s just been so nice to be part of a team, and to have Darren and Poulter and Westwood every night standing up, explaining what the challenge is for tomorrow, and see the fire in their eyes.
"We have all seen it on TV for The Ryder Cup, and you wonder if it will mean the same for them in the EurAsia Cup, but you could really sense this week that it was massive for them as well, and I think that lifted all of us.”
Clarke said he'd step back and look at his captaincy and try to work on his weaknesses.
"I've enjoyed it immensely. It's been a wonderful learning experience for me. I've been around the game a long time and done most things in the game and been fortunate to do so.
"This is different. I really enjoyed it. The guys seemed to listen to what I had to say, and if my little part of it has helped them along, then well be it. I'm really looking forward now to, we'll go back out the next couple weeks and sit down with The European Tour and figure out what I did well as a captain or what I could have done better and work on those areas and hopefully become -- get the whole package even better for September."
Friday’s Fourball Results (Team Europe first)
- 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 and Danny Chia/Nicholas Fung halved
- Ross Fisher/Kristoffer Broberg bt Prayad Marksaeng/K.T. Kim 6 & 4
- Shane Lowry/Andy Sullivan bt Shingo Katayama/Wu Ashun 2 & 1
Saturday’s Foursomes Results (Team Europe first)
- Ian Poulter/Danny Willett bt Byeonghun An/Thongchai Jaidee 3 & 2
- Bernd Wiesberger/Ross Fisher bt K.T. Kim/Jeunghun Wang 2-up
- Kristoffer Broberg/Chris Wood lost to S.S.P. Chawrasia/Kiradech Aphibarnrat 2-up
- Shane Lowry/Andy Sullivan bt Prayad Marksaeng/Shingo Katayama 3 & 2
- Soren Kjeldsen/Victor Dubusison halved with Danny Chia/Nicholas Fung
- Lee Westwood/Matthew Fitzpatrick bt Anirban Lahiri/Wu Ashun 5 & 4
Sunday’s Singles Matches (Team Europe first)
- Ian Poulter bt Danny Chia 4 & 3
- Danny Willett bt Byeonghun An 3 & 1
- Andy Sullivan bt Thongchai Jaidee 4 & 3
- Matthew Fitzpatrick bt Kiradech Aphibarnrat 2-up
- Shane Lowry lost to Anirban Lahiri 2 & 1
- Bernd Wiesberger lost to K.T. Kim 3 & 2
- Lee Westwood bt Nicholas Fung 7 & 6
- Ross Fisher halved with Jeunghun Wang
- Chris Wood bt S.S.P. Chawarasia 1-up
- Kristoffer Broberg bt Shingo Katayama 5 & 4
- Victor Dubuisson bt Wu Ashun 1-up
- Soren Kjeldsen bt Prayad Marksaeng 3 & 2