By Will Pearson, europeantour.com
in Kuala Lumpur
Ahead of the inaugural staging of the EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM, europeantour.com goes inside host venue Glenmarie Golf and Country Club with the help of Team Europe’s Jamie Donaldson and Team Asia’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat…
Set in the valleys of Shah Alam, not far from the heart of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, Glenmarie is a 450-acre sanctuary with a rich array of flora, fauna and water features, including majestic royal palms, coconut palms and frangipani trees – truly giving life to the title, the ‘Garden Course’.
Designed by American Max Wexler and opened in 1994, Glenmarie’s motto is ‘In Pursuit of Perfection’ and the club has long been considered one of the premier destinations in Malaysia.
This week, however, will surely represent the club’s finest moment when it hosts some of the world’s finest golfers for a Europe versus Asia Ryder Cup-style showdown.
Playing at just a couple of yards over 7,000 and to a par of 72 this week, the course is not overly long by European Tour standards but with small targets, some tight fairways and the oppressive, tropical heat to contend with there are still challenges aplenty for Captains Thongchai Jaidee, Miguel Angel Jimenez and their men to deal with.
For Team Asia golden boy Aphibarnrat, who broke his European Tour duck last year down the road at the Maybank Malaysian Open, and current Race to Dubai leader Donaldson, the task ahead this week at Glenmarie is ostensibly one to cherish.
“It’s quite a short course but you just have to hit the fairway, which is not as easy as it sounds because they are really narrow,” says Donaldson, whose runner-up finish at the WGC-Cadillac Championship earlier this month propelled him to the top of The European Tour money-list and all-but sealed a debut Ryder Cup berth for the two-time European Tour champion.
“The rough is not super thick but thick enough to still cause you a problem – especially with pretty small targets to aim for.”
Reigning Asian Tour Number One Aphibarnrat agrees: “The key thing here is your tee shots. If you can put it on the fairway there are a lot of chances to make a lot of birdies because the greens are small.
“If you can hit seven iron or less into those greens you should be getting within five to 20 feet every time and if you can do that you will make birdies and have a great chance of winning your match.”
'A Perfect Match Play Course'
What makes an ideal course for match play golf? The general consensus would be a fair test, a setup which punishes the bad shots but recompenses the good, but moreover an entertaining, birdie-littered layout chock-full of risk, reward and possibility for both peril and plunder alike.
“The greens are quite fair,” Aphibarnrat continues. “Therefore, if you keep finding them then you give yourself a chance at ten, 12 birdies a round.
“It’s a perfect course for match play. It will be great for the galleries as they will see a lot of birdies this week and I’d say that if you want to win in the fourballs you will need 12 or maybe even birdies between you and your partner.”
The Key Holes
“I would say all the holes are key, all of them are scoring possibilities; it is more about the pin positions we get,” Donaldson reflects. “If the pins are at the back of the greens you can pretty much bomb a driver down there but if the pins are short, at the front of the greens, then you just have to hit the fairway or you don’t have a prayer of getting anywhere close to the flag.”
Aphibarnrat, meanwhile, says: “I would say the par fives will be crucial this week as they are playing quite short so you would always be hoping to make at least birdie on those.
“Also, the par threes are key because the greens are small and if you get that bit of wind it can make it very tough to find the putting surface so bogey is very possible.”
With temperatures in Kuala Lumpur reaching close to 40 degrees Celsius this week, the testing weather conditions are another factor for Team Europe to overcome and one for the Asians to revel in.
Donaldson says: “We are all fairly comfortable with the heat because we play in it a lot but you never really get use to this level; it’s red hot and that’s tough to deal with sometimes.
“It would be nice to play in buggies all week like we did in the Pro-Am but unfortunately that’s not possible! But it could be an advantage for them being on their turf, with their weather, because this is just the norm for them.”
Unsurprisingly, Aphibarnrat concurs: “We love playing in the heat! Coming from Thailand myself, I am used to it, we all are in Team Asia so that, and of course the home support, could help us in some ways.”