Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Europe out to make a strong start at EurAsia Cup, says Graeme McDowell G-Mac

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 26:  Graeme McDowell of Team Europe in action during the pro-am event prior to the EurAsia Cup at the Glenmarie G&CC on March 26, 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 26: Graeme McDowell of Team Europe in action during the pro-am event prior to the EurAsia Cup at the Glenmarie G&CC on March 26, 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Graeme McDowell believes Europe's players will start the EurAsia Cup with "all guns blazing" in Kuala Lumpur today.

The European side captained by Miguel Angel Jimenez are odds-on favourites to beat Thongchai Jaidee's Asian team in a contest overshadowed by a bitter dispute involving the family of the late Seve Ballesteros and the European and Asian Tours.

The row has developed because the EurAsia Cup effectively usurps the Royal Trophy, a team contest between Asia and Europe played since 2006 that was Ballesteros' brainchild and run by his company.

The Royal Trophy was initially approved by the European Tour but business relations between the Tour and Ballesteros' family firm, Amen Corner, have since deteriorated.

Ballesteros' family were furious that European Tour chief executive George O'Grady claimed Ballesteros would have "cherished" the new contest, releasing a letter from the five-time major winner to the Asian Tour – sent in 2010, a year before his death from brain cancer – urging them not to copy the Royal Trophy.

Jose Maria Olazabal has unsurprisingly sided with his former Ryder Cup partner's family, but Jimenez – who was vice-captain to Ballesteros at Valderrama in 1997 – is relishing his part in the inaugural event.

Jimenez will partner fellow Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal in the opening match at Glenmarie Golf & Country Club against Thai pairing Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, while Danish pair Thomas Bjorn and Thorbjorn Olesen take on Japan's Koumei Oda and Hideto Tanihara in match two.

Ryder Cup hero McDowell – who sealed the winning point from the final singles match at Celtic Manor in 2010 – and Welshman Jamie Donaldson take on Kim Hyung-sung and local favourite Nicholas Fung in the final match.

"The European team is strong and the Asian team on paper does not look as good as Europe but they have the advantage out here with the climate and the golf course set-up and I think it's going to be a really good weekend," said McDowell.

"Miguel's great. You need his English translated sometimes it's such a heavy Spanish brogue but a lot of fun. He is passionate, he's into it and wants to win.

"The big key here is keeping the ball on the fairway, the Bermuda rough is very jumpy into firm and fast greens. With the pairings out it will start to get the juices flowing a little bit.

"There is always a lot of pride involved playing for your team. You want to win your match, let's put it that way. Everyone will be coming out all guns blazing and you want to get ahead early in this format."

Jimenez added: "I put myself in the first group, I think to see how the rest of the group are doing. Obviously Thongchai is thinking the same thing and we are face to face."

Jaidee is confident his side can make a strong start in today's fourball matches, with five foursomes to be played tomorrow and 10 singles matches on Saturday.

He said: "I know that Europe is quite strong at the moment, but our team is ready to play tomorrow.

"We have a very good team right now; we have top players in the world, they have won everywhere, every tour."

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