Asia claim surprise one-point lead after day one at EurAsia Cup
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 12/01/18 10:41am
Europe will need to come from behind to retain the EurAsia Cup after Asia claimed a surprise 3½-2½ advantage in the opening day's fourballs.
Scores and schedule
There were big wins for the English pairings of Tommy Fleetwood with Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton with Ross Fisher in the top and anchor matches, but the Asian team pulled off three victories in between before Li Haotong's superb final-hole birdie snatched a half in the last game to finish.
Thomas Bjorn's European side were heavy pre-tournament favourites at the start of the week, but they were in big trouble in the early stages of the first day as they trailed in four of the matches while being all square in the other two.
But Bjorn was soon cheered by some blue on the scoreboard when Fleetwood and Casey pulled away from Byeong Hun An and Kiradech Aphibarnrat with a brilliant burst of scoring on the back nine.
Aphibarnrat's birdie at 10 had pulled the home pair all square, but Fleetwood nailed an eagle putt on the next green and Casey converted a precise tee shot at the next for another win before further winning birdies at 14 and 15 sealed a 4&3 victory.
Arjun Atwal's team then hit back with Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Gavin Green, partnering Yuta Ikeda, making crucial birdies at the 15th and 17th to earn an impressive 2&1 win over Ryder Cup team-mates Matt Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.
There was another shock in store for Bjorn in match four as Henrik Stenson and Alex Levy suffered a resounding 5&4 defeat to young rookies Sunghoon Kang and Poom Saksansin.
Kang, in particular, was in inspired form as the home pair birdied each of the first eight holes to storm into a five-hole lead and, although Levy managed to pull a win back at the ninth, that was the lone success for Europe and Saksansin's birdie at 15 capped a huge victory.
Alex Noren and British Masters champion Paul Dunne were three down with five to play against Japanese veteran Hideto Tanihara and teenage star Phachara Khongwatmai, but the Swede reeled off three consecutive birdies to ensure the contest went to the final hole.
But the European pair were unable to make the birdie they needed to snatch a half at the last as another point for Asia took them into a 3-1 overall lead before Hatton and Fisher reduced the deficit against India's Anirban Lahiri and SSP Chawrasia.
Fisher made three birdies in four holes to give the English duo a commanding lead at the turn, and Hatton birdied 11 and 14 for further wins to wrap up a comfortable 5&4 victory.
The first day looked destined to finish with the teams all-square when Rafa Cabrera Bello carded three birdies and an eagle in the space of five holes on the back nine to take the Spaniard and Bernd Wiesberger into the lead against Li and Nicholas Fung.
But, after both teams had traded birdies at 16, the Europeans could not match Li's gallant birdie on the final green which clinched a valuable half-point for Atwal's side and ensured a one-point lead to take into Saturday's six foursomes matches.