KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – A dominant Europe won eight of the 12 singles matches against Asia on Sunday to rally from behind and successfully defend their EurAsia Cup title with a 14-10 victory in Malaysia.
Arjun Atwal’s Asia had led the third edition of the biennial matchplay contest following the opening two days of fourballs and foursomes but were swept aside when the players were sent out alone at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club.
Thomas Bjorn’s visitors began Sunday with a 6 1/2-5 1/2 deficit but turned the scoreboard blue in eight of the first nine matches to secure their title defense when Belgium’s Thomas Pieters scored the winning point.
The victory will act as a welcome boost for Bjorn, who will also captain Europe at the Ryder Cup in France this September, with the hosts looking to regain the trophy they lost to the United States at Hazeltine in 2016.
“I‘m delighted the way these 12 came out today. They have been fantastic all week. We had a really good group and we worked hard,” Bjorn said after Pieters beat An Byeong-un of South Korea 1-up to seal Europe’s triumph.
“It was mostly up to them last night and they wanted to go out and show what they are really about and they certainly did that today.”
Belgian Pieters raced to a 4-up lead against An but the South Korean fought back to level the match. Pieters then holed a seven-foot putt at the 15th to regain the lead and then won the next hole to ensure his team would retain the trophy.
“It’s always nice to get the winning point,” he said. “I got off to a good start, then played pretty poorly during the middle, then made a couple of very good birdies.”
Alex Noren started Europe’s charge in the first game when he erased Asia’s slender advantage with a 4 and 2 win over Malaysian Nicholas Fung.
Rafa Cabrera Bello then beat Gavin Green 4 and 3 to put the defending champions ahead before 2017 Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood gave Europe their third point in a row with a 2 and 1 victory against S.S.P Chawrasia of India.
Poom Saksansin cut the deficit when he beat Paul Casey 1-up but Henrik Stenson re-established a two-point cushion with his 2 and 1 win over Hideto Tanihara.
Bernd Wiesberger and Alex Levy recorded respective victories over Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai and Kiradech Aphibarnrat to put Europe on the cusp of victory before Pieters gave Europe an unassailable lead.
Englishman Tyrrell Hatton continued his strong form with a 2 and 1 win over India’s Anirban Lahiri for his third point of the week, before South Korean Kang Sung-hoon denied Matthew Fitzpatrick victory with two late birdies in their halved match.
Atwal’s side won the final two matches to add some respectability to the scoreline with China’s Li Haotong and Yuta Ikeda of Japan beating Paul Dunne and Ross Fisher.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by John O’Brien