Golf: Asia Boleh

Golf: Asia Boleh
SHARING THE SPOILS: Team Europe captain Miguel Angel Jimenez (far left) posing with the EurAsia trophy alongside Team Asia captain Thongchai Jaidee, after the Asians stormed back to level the score at 10-10.

He was the proverbial sacrificial lamb, sent to face the force of Europe's pony-tailed captain who has been an absolute mammoth at the Glenmarie golf course here on the first two days.

Instead of buckling under pressure, Nicholas Fung stood tall, matching world No. 39 Miguel Angel Jimenez hole for hole on the final day of the EurAsia Cup, in a gallant show of grit that was replicated in the other nine singles matches that were to follow.

They may have engineered a minor rally to get to 7-3 after being 5-0 down on the opening-day fourballs, but few would have wagered on Team Asia pulling off as stirring a comeback as they managed in the singles on Saturday.

Winning six of the 10 singles matches, Thongchai Jaidee's men levelled the scores at 10-10 to share the trophy with Team Europe.

"(Jaidee) masterminded a great draw. Looking at the scoreboard was inspiring for me. Nicholas was all square with Jimenez, Thongchai was up, Kiradech was up," said Anirban Lahiri who beat Victor Dubuisson 2&1 in the sixth match.

"When I was on the back nine, it was inspiring for me to see how my team were fighting and that brought the best out of me coming down the stretch."

Fung would eventually lose to Jimenez, the Spaniard leaving it till the final putt on the 18th to snatch victory from the 23-year-old Malaysian who was, after the eighth, leading the match by one hole.

"I looked at the scoreboard and there was only one blue colour (Europe score) - in my game - but the number of reds (Asia scores) was nice. It made me want to play as well as I could," said Prayad Marksaeng.

The Thai fought back from four down on the front nine, to halve his match with world No. 28 Jamie Donaldson, setting up a sensational finish, with Asia leading 9½-8½ with two matches to go.

Asian Support

The gallery came to life in a show of Asian unity, the flags of the players represented in Team Asia sprouting around the 18th, with fans even tweaking a Malaysian battle cry for their compatriots.

"Japan boleh!" went the call to arms and the Japanese duo of Koumei Oda and Hideto Tanihara - in the final two matches to make it to the 18th - almost responded.

Oda's comeback disintegrated at the last hole, losing to Joost Luiten, while Tanihara just missed a putt on the 18th to halve his match with Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.

"The team played so well, it was unbelievable," said Thongchai.

"Our results showed how far we have come. There was a time when we used to say we were from Asia and (people) asked if we have a Tour," said Lahiri.

"Everybody puts European golf up there and I think it's time Asian golf gets the credit it deserves."

Asian golf will have at least two more opportunities to prove themselves against their European counterparts, with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak confirming on Saturday that the EurAsia Cup will go on for at least two more editions.

Just before presenting the trophy to the two captains, he announced that this "tournament has the full backing of the Malaysian government", confirming that next two editions - in 2016 and 2018 - will be hosted in Malaysia.

That will perhaps give Fung more opportunities to prove himself.

Still walking tall after the presentation ceremony came to a close, Fung said: "It felt great and I would love to play in this again. "I was playing well and I actually felt that I could (beat Jimenez)."


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