Asia fightback forces tie with Europe

Asia fightback forces tie with Europe
In a moment of levity after a tense finish, the inaugural EurAsia Cup becomes the focus of a jovial tug-of-war between Europe captain Miguel Angel Jimenez (left) and Asia captain Thongchai Jaidee. Asia came back from 0-5 down to force a 10-10 tie at the Glenmarie Golf & Country Club in Kuala Lumpur.

History will show that the inaugural EurAsia Cup was shared, but Asia were the clear psychological victors after a remarkable fightback against their more illustrious rivals.

Despite leading 7-3 going into the final day, Europe can count themselves fortunate to have escaped with a 10-10 tie after being blitzed in singles play at the Glenmarie Golf & Country Club in Kuala Lumpur.

Hideto Tanihara had a chance on the 408-yard, par-four 18th to give Asia the outright victory, but his birdie putt was a foot to the left.

Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano then holed a three-footer to halve the hole, their match and the US$4 million (S$5 million) prize pot.

"Let me tell you something, that's the most expensive putt I've ever hit," the 2011 Singapore Open champion said with a wry smile.

In the end, Asia won six and drew two of the 10 singles - a resounding turnaround after dropping all five four-ball matches on Thursday.

Champagne bottles were popping in their dressing room, while the Europeans cast slightly forlorn and weary looks next door.

"We were pretty lucky there - Asia played incredible golf and could have won it," admitted Northern Irish world No. 14 Graeme McDowell, who was humbled 3 and 2 by Asia captain Thongchai Jaidee.

He was part of the Europe side that came back from four points down on the final day to beat the United States in the 2012 Ryder Cup.

On Saturday, he was just glad Europe were not on the receiving end of a similar comeback - especially when his loss early in the day sent shockwaves across the course.

Murmurs turned to disbelieving laughs among the crowd when the scoreboard glowed red in Asia's colours as matches started to swing in their favour. Thongchai's troops even briefly took the lead at 91/2-81/2.

As chants of "Asia, Asia" rang out among fans - many of whom carried Malaysia and Thailand banners - Europe's plays were raising red flags.

Dutchman Joost Luiten slammed his sand wedge after his chip failed to clear a bunker on the 16th. One hole behind, Fernandez-Castano gritted his teeth in frustration when a two-foot par putt lipped out.

"We were making top experienced players nervous and giving them a run for their money," said 23-year-old rising Asian Tour talent Nicholas Fung.

Malaysia's world No. 251 was tied going into the final hole against Europe captain Miguel Angel Jimenez, matching him putt for putt to leave the Spaniard looking flustered. The two-time Ryder Cup champion needed every bit of experience to squeeze out a downhill 15-foot birdie putt for the win.

Veteran Prayad Marksaeng, the captain's pick from Thailand, played his part for the home team. Down four holes at the turn, the 48-year-old found his putting touch late to rescue a crucial half-point against Wales' Jamie Donaldson.

At the closing ceremony, 15-time European Tour winner Thomas Bjorn was overheard asking Thongchai how they pulled off the comeback.

"Hard work," the former paratrooper replied with a toothy grin.

Jimenez teasingly pulled the trophy away from his opposing skipper, but he acknowledged the overall result. The biennial matchplay showpiece will stay in Malaysia's capital for the next two editions.

With his trademark impish grin, the Spaniard said: "We didn't deserve to win, and Asia didn't deserve to lose.

"We all go home happy today - let's do this again in two years."

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