Team Europe are in Asia to win the trophy for the first time. And they mean business. Although it might be a more relaxed affair than The Ryder Cup, Darren Clarke’s men will be under no illusions – the captain is expecting a win. That is not to disrespect Team Asia, who have plenty of talent in their side, it is merely a reflection of the strength of the European team and how seriously Clarke is taking this event and the role he will play in it.
2) The inaugural EURASIA Cup was a thriller!
If the second staging of the event is anything near as dramatic as the first, then we will all be in for a real treat. The 2014 contest finished 10-10, following a sensational final day fightback from the Asian team, coming from 7-3 down to salvage an unlikely tie. The competition was fierce, but both sets of players showed the sort of sportsmanship and camaraderie we have come to associate with our great game. More of the same this year please gents.
3) Under the Ryder Cup microscope…
Captain Clarke has spoken numerous times in the build-up to the event about how he will have a great chance to analyse some of the players in contention for a place in the 2016 Ryder Cup team. The players know that and will be doing their very best to show the skipper what they can offer.
Team match play is about much more than individual skill though, so Clarke will be keeping an eye on how his 12 men interact with one another, both on the course and off it. Different fourball and foursome combinations will be tried, and looking at the quality team Clarke has assembled here in Kuala Lumpur, it is feasible that half of his Ryder Cup team could be made up of players competing this week.
Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson and Stephen Gallacher all went on to play important roles in their Ryder Cup debuts at Gleneagles in 2014, having played this event that year. Which of the 2016 European side gathered in Malaysia will go on to do the same at Hazeltine National?
4) One European player in particular loves playing in this part of the world
Of all of Clarke’s talented team, Lee Westwood’s impressive record in Asia really stands out. Westy has won an incredible 15 times on Asian soil, with his last European Tour victory in this part of the world coming at the Maybank Malaysian Open in 2014, where he cruised to a seven shot win. That triumph came at Kuala Lumpur G&CC in the same hot and humid conditions as this week. Westwood, who hails from Worksop in England, somewhere not renowned for either of the above, should be strangely at home in Malaysia this week.
5) Night golf, anyone?
If we have some nasty stormy weather and we are hard-pressed to finish, the organisers will not panic, as they can send the players out under the floodlights at Glenmarie. We are joking of course, although who knows, maybe competitive night golf might not be such an unlikely prospect in the future.
6) The captains go back years
American Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III is not the only old friend Clarke will be coming up against this year. The Northern Irishman and Team Asia Captain Jeev Milkha Singh go back years. The pair, who say they have been friends for as long as they can remember, have both enjoyed very successful playing careers - although those are on hold this week when they look to lead their teams to glory.
Clarke said: “Jeev will be trying to kick my butt and I will be trying to kick his”, while Singh had his say: “I’m looking forward to going up against Darren – I’m going to have a lot of fun with him!”
7) 18 European Tour wins in 2015 and 14 of the top 20 players in the Race to Dubai are playing
Not bad, hey. Especially when you consider some of Singh’s team rarely ply their trade on The European Tour. On Clarke’s side Andy Sullivan was the most prolific winner last year, with three victories, while Danny Willett won twice. Overall nine of the men in blue won last season.
Meanwhile Team Asia also have some players who have shown recently just how good they are. The names of Anirban Lahiri and Kiradech Aphibarnrat will be very familiar with European Tour fans, after they both won twice last season. And who could forget Thongchai Jaidee. With seven European Tour wins to his name, Jaidee won the Porsche European Open in 2015 and remains fiercely competitive at the age of 46.
The talent on show this week is further highlighted by the fact that 14 of the top 20 players in the 2015 Race to Dubai are here and ready for action.
8) The format
Match play evokes special memories and excitement, and it will be no different at the 2016 EURASIA Cup, where the two continents will do battle over three days. Day one will consist of six fourball matches, with Saturday featuring six foursomes. The finale will throw all 24 players into battle, with 12 singles matches wrapping things up.
9) Expect some modern captaincy
Much like 2014 European Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley, Clarke will embrace technology as he bids to cover every base in his quest to gain the smallest of margins over Team Asia, even if that means starting a European Team Whatsapp group.
For those unfamiliar with the social networking messaging app, it will allow Clarke’s team to be in constant touch with each other, and should help foster a strong team bond.
10) By royal appointment
Not many tournaments have a royal seal of approval, but this week’s EURASIA CUP will carry exactly that as the Queen of Malaysia - Tuanku Hajah Haminah – is set to play in Thursday’s pro-am. The Queen will strike a ceremonial opening tee shot before joining the stars of Europe and Asia on the golf course.