Europe build four-shot lead
Published 28/03/2014 | 09:22
Europe will take a 7-3 lead into the final day of the inaugural EurAsia Cup on Saturday despite a spirited fightback from Asia in Kuala Lumpur.
After being whitewashed 5-0 in Thursday's fourballs, Thongchai Jaidee's side hit back to take three points from Friday's foursomes, at one point even leading in four of the matches and being level in the other.
In the end they had to settle for Prayad Marksaeng and Kim Hyung-sung beating Thomas Bjorn and Thorbjorn Olesen 4&3 and Anirban Lahiri and Siddikur Rahman defeating Joost Luiten and Victor Dubuisson on the 18th, with two matches finishing all square.
Europe's only winners were Graeme McDowell and Jamie Donaldson, who came from behind for the second match in succession to beat Gaganjeet Bhullar and Nicholas Fung 2&1.
Captain Miguel Angel Jimenez helped deny Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat victory in the opening contest, the 50-year-old making two eagles at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club for the second day running before a superb approach to the 18th set up Pablo Larrazabal for a birdie.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Stephen Gallacher also halved their match with Koumei Oda and Hideto Tanihara thanks to a birdie on the 17th, although the European pair missed another birdie chance on the last to win having let slip a three-hole lead.
"At the end of the day I am happy," Jimenez said. "We managed to half a couple of matches and win another one. It was a tough day in the heat and Asia played very well today. At one point it looked like it was going to be the opposite of yesterday."
Jimenez's side now need just three and a half points from Saturday's 10 singles matches to secure overall victory.
"It's going to be an interesting day tomorrow," Jimenez added. "We must stay focused and try to win the points as soon as possible."
To that end, Jimenez put himself in the opening match once more against Fung, with McDowell then taking on Jaidee and Bjorn up against Aphibarnrat. The last of the singles sees Gallacher against Siddikur.
After losing the opening hole, Bjorn and Olesen had birdied the third to get back on level terms, but promptly lost the next two holes and were three down after eight thanks to a birdie from their opponents.
Kim converted his team-mate's excellent tee shot on the par-three 12th for another birdie to move four up, and although the European pair reduced the deficit on the next, a par on the 14th was good enough to put Marksaeng and Kim four ahead once more and they claimed Asia's first point on the 15th.
After Jimenez's heroics, t he third match also finished all square after Scotland's Gallacher missed from 12 feet on the 18th to snatch victory.
He and Fernandez-Castano had been three up after 10 holes but lost four of the next five - three of them to birdies - to trail by one hole with two remaining, before a superb tee shot from the Spaniard led to a birdie on the 17th.
McDowell and Donaldson were three down after seven on Thursday and two down after eight today, but were thereafter gifted a number of holes by mistakes from their opponents.
Pars were good enough to win the ninth, 13th, 15th and 16th and they sealed victory with another par on the 17th after an excellent bunker shot from McDowell.
"It was another grind today and we got lucky in the end," McDowell admitted. "They were probably favourites playing the 13th, 14th and 15th from the middle of the fairway but made some mistakes and thankfully we played solidly and were able to capitalise.
"I think the heat was a big factor today. Jamie and I were both feeling it. When you feel like you are overheating it's very difficult to focus on your shots. A lot of the guys looked like they dug deep coming in and scraped a couple of halves.
"We are very happy with our point and we are in a nice commanding position going into the last day."
Donaldson added: "At one point it looked pretty smelly, the scoreboard was very, very red. For us to turn that game around like we did yesterday was very important."
Luiten and Dubuisson had been one up with seven to play but lost the 12th and 13th and made a mess of the par-five 16th to lose it to a par. A lthough they won the 17th, they were unable to birdie the last and Lahiri held his nerve to hole from seven feet to secure victory.