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Friday, 12 January 2018
Day 1 highlights - EurAsia Cup

A brilliant birdie at the last from Li Haotong saw Asia finish the opening day of the 2018 EurAsia Cup with a 3½-2½ lead.

After making a shaky start to Friday's fourball matches, defending champions Europe rallied in the afternoon and had a chance to head into the weekend on level terms.

But in the day's final clash, Li held his nerve to win the 18th hole and halve the match against Rafa Cabrera Bello and Bernd Wiesberger.

Thomas Bjørn's men had found themselves behind in four matches and all square in the other two as Asia dominated in the early stages.

But Europe managed to turn the tide in the afternoon as putts began to fly in all over the course.

Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey put the first point on the board with a 4 and 3 victory over Byeong Hun An and Kiradech Aphibarnrat in match one.

The English duo got off to a flying start, going two up courtesy of a birdie from Fleetwood at the first and Casey's long-range eagle putt at the third.

But the Asian pair won the seventh and tenth holes to level things up as the hosts stamped their authority on the competition on Friday morning.

Fleetwood's eagle at the 11th put Europe back in front and they did not look back, winning the 12th, 14th and 15th to pick up the first point.

Casey was thrilled to get an early point on the board. He said: "It  feels great.  I love match play, especially when you have a partner like Tommy Fleetwood. 

"What a blast, what great golf we played, but the Asians threw a lot at us, as well. 

"I'm ecstatic to get this going and get a point because it's going to be a tough week."

Fleetwood said: "We got up early with a good start but they just came back and hit really good golf shots.

"It's funny, match play is that kind of game. We didn't miss any of the real chances that we had. We had some mid-range ones when they were going strong that we didn't hole, but we were just there all the time.

"There's always two of us in the hole. We were both playing really good golf, feeding off each other and just generally had a good time together. 

"It does help when you're playing well, but it's good to get that first point on the board." 

The hosts then picked up two points in quick succession, with Yuta Ikeda and Gavin Green beating Thomas Pieters and Matthew Fitzpatrick 2 and 1 before Henrik Stenson and rookie Alex Levy fell to Sunghoon Kang and Poom Saksansin 5 and 4.

After going two down after 11 holes, Pieters and Fitzpatrick had levelled the match thanks to birdies at the 12th and 14th.

But Green turned on the style in the closing holes, notching birdies at the 15th and 17th to clinch the point.

Kang and Saksansin, meanwhile, led from start to finish as they stunned Ryder Cup stalwart Stenson, who is the highest ranked player at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club this week, and Alex Levy.

The Asian pair went five up inside seven holes after starting the day with eight straight birdies.

And despite some impressive scoring from Stenson and Levy, Kang and Saksansin cruised to victory.

Englishmen Ross Fisher and Tyrrell Hatton then put Europe back on level terms with a 5 and 4 win over Anirban Lahiri and S.S.P Chawrasia.

Birdies from Fisher as the sixth, eighth and ninth had the European pair three up at the turn, while Hatton fired two further birdies at the 11th and 14th to wrap up the point.

Fisher said: "We always knew it was going to be tough. Anirban's a good player. S.S.P is not the longest but he's got a phenomenal short game as he showed there.

 

"I think we just stuck to our game plan, played our own games, percentage golf, and there weren't really many holes where we didn't both have birdie putts or were making easy pars.

"I let Tyrrell down a couple of times, which is disappointing, but I think we dovetailed really well and that was the key to winning today."

After Alex Noren and Paul Dunne had lost to Hideto Tanihara and 18 year old Phachara Khongwatmai by two holes, Li and Nicholas Fung halved their match with Cabrera Bello and Wiesberger to hand Asia a one-point lead at the end of the opening day.

Some stunning putting from Cabrera Bello just after the turn had seen the European pair go from two down to one up in the space of three holes in a topsy-turvy encounter.

But despite leading by one as they stood at the 18th tee, Europe could not find a birdie at the last and had to settle for half a point.

Cabrera Bello said: "It's been a tough match. Obviously they played very good themselves, and so did we. 

"It was a back-and-forth battle. At end, only a halve, of course we wanted to get the win for Europe.

"But at least we got a halve."

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