January 11: The excitement is building within Darren Clarke’s European team ahead of the EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM which gets underway on Friday.
Clarke’s 12-man team to face Jeev Milkha Singh’s Asian side are hoping to become the first team to take the EurAsia Cup back to Europe after the inaugural event ended in a memorable 10-10 draw in 2014.
With the stage set at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur for another enthralling match play competition between many of Asia’s and Europe’s finest players, three of Clarke’s European stars expressed their excitement at the prospect of becoming the first team to lay their hands on the EurAsia Cup trophy.
Andy Sullivan enjoyed the best season of his career in 2015, winning three times on the European Tour and pushing Rory McIlroy all the way to the finish line at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship to establish himself among the game’s elite.
The 29-year-old is making his debut in team competition as a professional, having represented Great Britain and Ireland in the victorious 2011 Walker Cup team.
“I can’t wait to represent Europe and Captain Clarke,” beamed Sullivan. “I am very proud to be able to do that and to represent my continent. Team match play events are always exciting and after the first EURASIA CUP ended in a draw I am sure both teams will be desperate to win it.
“It’s going to be awesome. I know that once we get there and get going the emotion will be there and there will be fist-pumps flying around all over the place – it’s going to be an amazing week.
“I have played in team events as an amateur and I know how special it feels to be part of a team. You are not just playing for yourself; you are playing for the team, you don’t want to let anyone down and you all feel a big part of it,” added Sullivan.
The EurAsia Cup will also provide Clarke an invaluable insight into how many of the European Tour’s next generation of stars will handle a team environment before this year’s Ryder Cup in the USA.
While four members of Clarke’s EurAsia Cup team (Victor Dubuisson, Ross Fisher, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood) have experienced the rarefied atmosphere of The Ryder Cup, the other eight players – Kristoffer Broberg, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Søren Kjeldsen, Shane Lowry, Sullivan, Bernd Wiesberger, Danny Willett and Chris Wood – will be looking to impress their captain both on the course and in the team room this week.
Every player in Europe’s EurAsia Cup team will expect to challenge for a ticket to Hazeltine National. Lowry and Wiesberger summed up those ambitions perfectly.
“I have been looking forward to the EurAsia Cup since it was announced last year,” said Wiesberger, the current ALSTOM Open de France champion.
“The European Tour is a big family, but we are individuals who play for ourselves most weeks, so for us to be able to come together as a team, to represent Europe and to represent our Tour is always exciting and brings something extra to the week for the players.
“It’s a big year for us with The Ryder Cup too, and to be playing for Darren at the EurAsia Cup gives a lot of the younger and less experienced players the chance to show him what we can do and how we play and fit into a team.”
Lowry, who secured the biggest win of his career to date at last year’s WGC – Bridgestone Invitational, said: “I am looking forward to it – to play for Europe at any level is an honour, but to be able to do it as a professional playing alongside so many great players is going to be fantastic.
“One of the main reasons I wanted to play the EURASIA CUP so much was to get invaluable team experience in a Ryder Cup year. A lot of the lads on our team next week are looking to qualify for The Ryder Cup this year and next week gives us a great chance to show Darren what we are capable of and hopefully impress him.”