We’re in a Ryder Cup year and European captain Thomas Bjorn will get a taster of leading a side in a team event when Europe face Asia in the EurAsia Cup.
While star names of the European game such as Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia are not taking part – Bjorn will have plenty of experience to call on with six former Ryder Cup players named in his side.
The Ryder Cup may be the main even on Bjorn’s mind, but the EurAsia Cup is an event taken extremely seriously and he will be looking to defend the title Europe won so comprehensively in 2016.
Team Asia, led by captain Arjun Atwal, have a lot ground to make up if they are to stand a chance of winning an event they lost by a mammoth 13 points two years ago, and the Europeans are extremely strong.
Tommy Fleetwood, who will have designs on making the Ryder Cup team after a brilliant 2017 that saw him win the Race To Dubai, is just one of the star names on a European side that also numbers Rafa Cabrera Bello, Paul Casey, Paul Dunne, Ross Fisher, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton, Alexander Levy, Alex Noren, Thomas Pieters, Henrik Stenson and Bernd Wiesberger.
Unsurprisingly, Team Europe are hot favourites to defend the title at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
188BET have Europe priced at 1.25 for the win, with Asia at 4.50 and the tie at 8.50.
In the top points scorer market, Casey makes some appeal at 188BET’s price of 8.00. The Englishman has made the switch to the European Tour for 2018 in a bid to make the Ryder Cup team and he will be eager to show Bjorn that he is hungry for the challenge and ready to show his best in team golf. A maximum-points haul would do that.
While the event is a warm-up for the Ryder Cup, which will take place at Le Golf National in Paris, the format is slightly different. In the Ryder Cup, there are fourballs and foursomes on days one and two – with some players missing out – but the EurAsia Cup sees six fourball matches played on day one, in this case Friday, with six foursomes on the Saturday, followed by 12 singles on the Sunday.
The schedule ensures that all 12 golfers on each team will take part in all three formats of the game, but it is still up to the two captains to pick the pairs they think will operate well together. In Bjorn’s case, it will be excellent preparation for the Ryder Cup and he will have his pen and paper out making notes about who is best suited to which format.
Not all of the European side playing this week will be in the Ryder Cup team, but they all have decent shouts at making the team by right and will be keen to impress Bjorn. Going the extra mile could also stand the players in good stead with regard to the captain’s wildcard picks.
It’s not all about the European team, as the Asian side have talented players such as Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Anirban Lahiri and Li Hao-Tong to call on. They will be desperate to ensure the crowds in Kuala Lumpur are treated to some competitive golf, but the Europeans just look a stronger outfit.