Team Europe has been named the Hilton European Tour Golfer of the Month for January following their enthralling and dominant 18½-5½ Asia victory in the EURASIA CUP presented by DRB-HICOM.
Captained superbly by Darren Clarke, who will lead Europe to defend The Ryder Cup at Hazeltine this September, Europe were irrepressible against Jeev Milkha Singh’s Asian team, who had hoped of winning the EURASIA CUP for the first time, having contested an unforgettable 10-10 draw in the inaugural edition of the event in 2014.
But Asian dreams of victory were quickly dashed as Clarke’s captain’s picks, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood – who, along with fellow Englishman Andy Sullivan, delivered three points out of three for Europe – inspired the 12 Europeans to out-perform their opponents in the fourball, foursome and singles formats.
In recognition of their convincing victory, each member of the European team will receive an upgrade to Hilton HHonors Diamond VIP status, the highest tier of Hilton’s loyalty programme.
Europe took a 4½-1½ lead during Friday’s fourball session, an advantage they never looked likely to relinquish as they rode the early momentum and won Saturday’s foursomes session by the same margin.
Leading by six points heading into the Sunday singles Clarke warned against the kind of complacency which had allowed Asia to come back from 7-3 to secure that 10-10 draw two years previously, but the European captain need not have worried as Danny Willett put the seal on a dominant victory by holing the winning putt at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club, in Kuala Lumpur, as Europe ran out eventual winners by a clear 13 points.
It was an especially impressive and gratifying performance for Clarke to witness, as the Northern Irishman played the role of captain for the first time in his career.
“I’m delighted to accept this award on behalf of Team Europe. They all played a vital role in our victory at the EURASIA CUP so they have all contributed to this victory,” said Clarke.
“We had a brilliant backroom team in Malaysia too, and this award is recognition for the work that everyone involved with the European team carried out. Everyone played their part, but no-one more than the players and I would like to thank them all once more for the professionalism and dedication they brought to the team.
I couldn’t have asked for any more from the guys and they all responded brilliantly to anything I asked.
“I think the unity and camaraderie that has become the hallmark for European teams was definitely there and that shone through in the level of performance the players brought to the golf course. I was very proud to be their captain and I thank the guys once again for their support – it really means a lot.”
But for the nature and circumstance of Europe’s victory at the EURASIA CUP presented by DRB-HICOM, January’s Golfer of the Month would have been South Africa’s Branden Grace, who produced a stunning run of form in which he finished tied fourth at the South African Open and tied fifth in Abu Dhabi before a successful defence of his Commercial Bank Qatar Masters title secured the seventh European Tour win of his career.
Other candidates for the Hilton European Tour Golfer of the Month for January included Grace’s young compatriots Brandon Stone and Hayden Porteous, whose respective wins at the SA and Joburg Opens saw them establish themselves as European Tour champions; but Team Europe were judged the winners by the Golfer of the Month panel during the Dubai Desert Classic. The official 1-2-3 for January was Team Europe, Grace and Stone.
Derek Lawrenson, President of the Association of Golf Writers, said: “January was a brilliant start to the year on The European Tour, with more exciting young South African players making the breakthrough, the Rory, Rickie and Jordan show in Abu Dhabi and then the consistent brilliance of Branden Grace over three weeks.
“I think I speak for the majority when I say Branden was pretty unlucky to come into the same month as Team Europe. Any other month would have seen him win the award, but given the impressive margin of victory, the level of performance from the players and the near flawless nature of Darren Clarke’s first captaincy, the majority of our panel felt that Team Europe were worthy winners.”
Hilton, the Official Hotel Supplier to The European Tour, is the Official Sponsor of the European Tour Golfer of the Month award, which recognises and rewards the best performances of European Tour members each month.
The prize provides the winner with a host of fantastic benefits at 4,600 hotels within the Hilton portfolio around the world, including complimentary access to Executive Floors, late checkouts, 48-hour room guarantees and, pending availability, complimentary room upgrades.