'Amazing' Jimenez leads Europe rout
Pablo Larrazabal hailed an "amazing" performance from Miguel Angel Jimenez as the captain led by example to inspire Europe to a 5-0 whitewash against Asia on the opening day of the inaugural EurAsia Cup.
Jimenez put himself out in the first match with fellow Spaniard Larrazabal in Kuala Lumpur and was the star of the show in a 2&1 victory over opposing captain Thongchai Jaidee and fellow Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
The 50-year-old carded two eagles and three birdies in the first 11 holes at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club as Europe claimed a clean sweep of the day's five fourball matches in front of Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.
"Miguel played great," said Larrazabal, who contributed birdies on the sixth, 10th and 16th. "He was amazing. I was there when he needed me but he played great."
The only match to reach the 18th saw the Danish pair of Thomas Bjorn and Thorbjorn Olesen beat Japan's Koumei Oda and Hideto Tanihara by two holes, 10 holes in a row being halved after the European duo went two up on the fifth.
A birdie from Oda on the 16th reduced the deficit, but Olesen crucially saved par from over the green on the 17th and the Asian pair were unable to find the necessary birdie on the last.
By that stage, France's Victor Dubuisson and Joost Luiten had already secured a 3&2 win over Bangladesh's Siddikur Rahman and Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng, the highlight coming when Dubuisson drove into the water on the par-five 11th but saw Luiten then hit the pin with his second shot to leave a tap-in for a winning eagle.
Stephen Gallacher and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano had also put a point on the board with a 4&3 win over Indian pair Gaganjeet Bhullar and Anirban Lahiri, Fernandez-Castano getting off to a flying start by holing his second shot to the first for an eagle two.
After being conceded the fifth to move two up, Gallacher then eagled the par-five 11th from 15ft and Fernandez-Castano birdied the next, and although Lahiri reduced the deficit on the 14th, Gallacher's birdie on the next sealed a comfortable win.
Ryder Cup hero Graeme McDowell - who sealed the winning point from the final singles match at Celtic Manor in 2010 - and Welshman Jamie Donaldson surprisingly found themselves three down after seven holes to Kim Hyung-sung and local favourite Nicholas Fung, who had birdied the third, fifth and seventh.
But world number 14 McDowell, who had a 26-hour journey from Orlando after playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, birdied the eighth and ninth and Donaldson holed from seven feet for eagle on the 11th to get back to all square.
Donaldson also birdied the 13th and 16th and a par on the 17th was enough to prompt the players to shake hands to conclude a perfect morning for the European team.
"We had a slow start," admitted Donaldson. "We had five pars which was quite slow, but after that Graeme holed a good couple of putts on the front nine and he birdied six, eight and nine and after that I played well and we dovetailed really well to close out the match on 17.
"We have had a very good day today. To be 5-0 up is a fantastic start. We have always said during practice that we simply can't underestimate our opponents because at the end of the day, we are playing in Malaysia, it's so hot and the courses favour them.
"We just had a very good day today and we have to not get complacent, get out tomorrow and continue to play well and not take it for granted, although we have had a very good start."
With a total of 20 points to play for, Jimenez's side now need just five and a half more from Friday's five foursomes matches and Saturday's 10 singles to secure overall victory.
Unsurprisingly Jimenez kept faith with the same pairings for the foursomes, meaning another clash in the first match with Jaidee and Aphibarnrat.
Jaidee also kept the Japanese pair of Oda and Tanihara together to face Fernandez-Castano and Gallacher, but Marksaeng will partner Kim against Bjorn and Olesen while Siddikur and Lahiri face Luiten and Dubuisson. The final match again sees McDowell and Donaldson in the anchor role against Bhullar and Fung.
Before play began on Thursday, Malaysian prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak led a minute's silence with Jimenez and Jaidee as a tribute to the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Players and officials also wore black ribbons as a mark of respect.
Jaidee admitted Europe had been the better side, adding: "Europe were very strong today. We played with Miguel in the first match, we played well and must have been eight under but he was about 11 under. Miguel didn't miss anything.
"We'll try again tomorrow and we will change our game plan. We will work really hard and think about making some points back before the singles."
Lahiri added: "I guess we have our backs to the wall. There's only way we can move from here. We can't get any worse, can we?
"We have to hope that the Europeans get a little complacent and we have to up our games and play our best over the next two days, especially tomorrow, try and win at least four of the matches or 3 1/2 points."