Friday, 15 January 2016
Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood and Chris Wood  (Getty Images)
Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood and Chris Wood (Getty Images)

Ian Poulter led from the front as Europe built a commanding lead on the opening day of the EURASIA CUP presented by DRB-HICOM.

Darren Clarke's Europe lead 4½ - 1½ after winning four of Friday's six fourball matches, with Asia taking one and the other ending all square.

Bernd Wiesberger and Poulter, one of the star performers in Europe’s recent Ryder Cup victories, put the visitors' first point on the board after beating Anirban Lahiri and Jeung Hun Wang 4 and 3 in match one.

Europe did not have to wait long for their second point, with Ross Fisher and Kristoffer Broberg posting a 6 and 4 victory over Prayad Marksaeng and K.T Kim in match four.

Asia took their first point shortly after when Byeong-hun An and Thongchai Jaidee completed their stunning turnaround to beat Yorkshiremen Danny Willett and Matt Fitzpatrick 3 and 1.

But Europe made it 3-1 when Shane Lowry and Andy Sullivan beat Wu Ashun and Shingo Katayama 2 and 1 before Søren Kjeldsen and Victor Dubuisson, who was struggling with a knee injury on the back nine, halved their match with home favourites Danny Chia and Nicholas Fung.

Lee Westwood and Chris Wood then beat Kiradech Aphibarnrat and SSP Chawrasia 2 and 1 in match six to round off a successful day for Europe.

European captain Clarke was thrilled with his team's start to the competition. He said: "It's a wonderful start for Europe. There were a lot of matches there where it could have swung either way on the back nine. 

"Halfway round, Europe were leading in all the matches. I was on the radio to a few of the other guys and said, this is match play, Asia are going to come back at some stage on the back nine, and that's exactly what they did.

"We had a strong couple matches and managed to finish with a very good result."

In the morning's first match, Wiesberger and Poulter were one up thanks to a birdie from the Austrian at the sixth, and they caught fire after the turn, winning three holes in a row from the tenth to build an unassailable lead.

Poulter was pleased with their performance. He said: "It was good golf. We played nicely. It's nice to get it done early, as hot as it is out here right now.

"We holed a couple of putts, which is always handy in this format. It normally makes the difference - Ian Poulter.

"Those guys really didn't hole anything, and that's the turning point. If you hole putts from 15, 20 feet, then obviously it makes it very difficult for your opponent."

Wiesberger added: "I think we did well as a team. We holed some key putts when we wanted to, and we had our good moments, each of us, and helped each other out, so it was a good team effort today."

Fisher and Broberg were four up at the turn before increasing their lead further by taking the tenth hole.

Marksaeng and Kim claimed the 11th, but the European duo restored their five-hole lead when Broberg rolled in his long-range putt at the next, and they secured the point by winning the 14th.

Fisher said: "We were really up for the challenge come the first tee, and just kept saying to each other 'come on, let's keep the pedal down, let's just put two balls in play'.

"That's what Clarkey reiterated to us last night at the meeting and that's what we tried to do today - put two balls in play, put two balls on the green and give ourselves looks at birdies. We made a bunch today and we're delighted to be finished early."

Elsewhere, Jaidee put the Asian pair ahead in match two when he holed a monster putt from some 90 feet at the fifth.

But Englishmen Willett and Fitzpatrick bounced back and looked well-placed to win another point for Europe after some brilliant putting saw them take a two-hole lead into the turn.

But An and Jaidee had other ideas, winning the 11th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th holes to seal Asia’s first point. 

Lowry and Sullivan were two up at the turn before birdies at the 13th and 14th gave them a four-hole lead.

Katayama chipped in at the 15th before a birdie from Wu at the 16th reduced the deficit for the Asian pair, but the European duo halved the 17th to close out victory.

Dubuisson and Kjeldsen went one up at the earliest opportunity in match three, with Frenchman Dubuisson firing a birdie at the first.

Fung levelled things up with a birdie at the short fifth before Dubuisson sank a sensational long putt at the ninth to restore Europe's one-hole lead.

The Asian pair drew level at the next but Europe regained the lead at the 14th, only for Fung to square the match by winning the 15th.

Kjeldsen thought he had edged his pair back in front when he chipped in at the 17th, but Fung also chipped in to set up a thrilling finale.

The match was halved at the 18th after both teams managed par.

Westwood and Wood started strongly, going two up after winning the second and fifth holes, but they were pegged back as Aphibarnrat won the seventh and Chawrasia took the tenth for Asia.

But birdies at the 12th and 16th helped the Englishmen win the point.

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