EurAsia Cup: Dunne and Noren to seek foursomes revenge

EurAsia Cup: Dunne and Noren to seek foursomes revenge
Paul Dunne in action in the four balls for Europe in the EurAsia Cup in Kuala Lumpur. Picture: Asian Tour

Paul Dunne in action in the four balls for Europe in the EurAsia Cup in Kuala Lumpur. Picture: Asian Tour

Paul Dunne and partner Alex Noren will be looking for revenge in the foursomes after going down by two holes to Japan's Hideto Tanihara and teenage Phachara Khongwatmai on day one of EurAsia Cup in Thailand.

Making his debut in the event, Dunne will be hoping to get his first point on Saturday after Asia took a surprise 3.5-2.5 lead after the opening fourballs at Glenmarie Golf & Country Club in Kuala Lumpur.

The Swede and the Co Wicklow were never up at any stage in the match and found themselves three down with five to play.

But while Noren birdied the 13th and 14th to claw the deficit back to just one down heading to the 18th, Tanihara closed with a birdie to give the Asian pair a two-hole victory, shooting 10-under to eight-under for the Europeans.

"I’m very happy to get a point for Asia, but I learned a lot this week and this match because when I start, I’m nervous and Tanihara tell me just make birdie and don’t think about anything," Khongwatmai said. 

"After that, I played so good, and that’s why I’m in this press conference.

"This is my first time playing in the EurAsia Cup, and after four or five holes, it felt easy, and Tanihara taught me a lot. I was quite nervous on 18, but I knew that my teammate can make birdie and he did it."

It was a frustrating day for Europe, and while captain Thomas Bjørn was not surprised that Asia came out firing on all cylinders, he could not have expected Henrik Stenson and Alex Levy to lose 5 and 4 to Sunghoon Kang and Poom Saksansin, who birdied the first eight holes to go five up.

“I've been talking to the guys all week that expect them to come out firing," said the Dane, who will also captain Europe in the Ryder Cup in Paris in September. 

"Expect them to be 100 percent up for this, and they are going to go out and play some good golf. We needed to be ready to play. When I look at the scoring in the groups, I feel like, yeah, a couple of guys might feel like they should have done better, but in general, there was a lot of good golf from our side."

While European No 1 Tommy Fleetwood and the experienced Paul Casey gave Bjørn a good start by beating Byeong Hun An and Kiradech Aphibarnrat 4 and 3 in the opening match, the hosts then picked up two points in quick succession.

Yuta Ikeda and Gavin Green beat Belgium’s Thomas Pieters and England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick 2 and 1 before 2016 Open champion Stenson, and rookie Levy fell to Kang and Saksansin.

Englishmen Ross Fisher and Tyrrell Hatton put Europe back on level terms with a 5 and 4 win over India's Anirban Lahiri and S.S.P Chawrasia. 

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But after Noren and Dunne had lost to Tanihara and 18-year-old  Khongwatmai, a birdie at the last from Li Haotong helped the Chinese star an Nicholas Fung halve their match with Rafa Cabrera Bello and Bernd Wiesberger and give Asia a narrow, one-point lead overnight.

"I think I made a lot of birdies today," Haotong said. "I think probably around 11, 12, and I played very well and made a lot of putts.  So I am very happy to have made the final putt."

Bjørn's men found themselves behind in four matches and all square in the other two as Asia dominated in the early stages of Friday’s fourball matches.

but Europe managed to turn the tide on the back nine as putts began to fall in all over the course.

“The results speak for themselves on both sides," Bjørn said. "There's some guys that played extremely good golf. 

"You look at our top pairing today, quality all the way through. They are class, both of those boys. It was nice to see Paul (Casey) come back into the fold of European golf and go out and being determined at delivering a performance that's just world class.

“I suspect that we'll go out tomorrow and be ready to play, and foursomes is a very different game. 

"We are looking forward to the challenge ahead, but we are in a position where we feel like we knew we could find ourselves in, and we knew this Asian team is very strong and very much ready to play. 

“We were quite early in the week aware that we were going to make two different lineups for fourballs and foursomes, and I look at those foursome pairings that I put out tomorrow and I see some very qualified pairings. 

"When players go out today and they play extremely well, that's in fourballs.  Their games match up different in foursomes. 

“I learn something every second of the day when I'm a captain, but I don't only do that here. I do that every day and I talk to a lot of people. 

"Being captain is something that is a role that you take on and it's a role that once they start playing golf, you realise that things are very much out of your hands.  You can do all the preparation and put everything in place, but it's for them to go and play the golf.”

Asian skipper Arjun Atwal was thrilled with his team’s start and Li Haotong's closing birdie.

"That was very important for me as that half point was really a psychological boost for the team," Atwal said.

“The players in my team are all champions and they know what to do to win. All I want them to do is to stay relaxed and continue to have fun tomorrow."

Casey was pleased to start with a win and unsurprised by the strenth of the home challenge.

“ Three years being away, I had to do something positive, and after getting a captain's pick and then getting a Race to Dubai Champion as my partner, yeah, I had to get off to a flyer," Casey said. "So it was fantastic. 

"We're not underestimating this team by any means. We are taking this very seriously, so the score you see on the leaderboard right now is not through complacency.  Clearly, they have played some amazing golf to be in this position.

“I love match play, especially when you have a partner like Tommy Fleetwood. What a blast, what great golf we played, but the Asians threw a lot at us. Ecstatic to get this going and get a point because it's going to be a tough week."

EurAsia Cup

Friday Fourball Results:

  1. Tommy Fleetwood & Paul Casey 4&3 defeated Byeong Hun An & Kiradech Aphibarnrat
  2. Thomas Pieters & Matthew Fitzpatrick 2&1 defeated by Yuta Ikeda & Gavin Green
  3. Alex Noren & Paul Dunne 2 Holes defeated by Hideto Tanihara & Phachara Khongwatmai
  4. Henrik Stenson & Alexander Levy 5&4 defeated by Sunghoon Kang & Poom Saksansin
  5. Bernd Wiesberger & Rafa Cabrera Bello Match Halved Nicholas Fung & Li Haotong
  6. Ross Fisher & Tyrrell Hatton 5&4 defeated Anirban Lahiri & S.S.P. Chawrasia

Team Europe: 2½ — Team Asia: 3½

Saturday foursomes:

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