EurAsia Cup: Tremendous Asia fightback sees inaugural Cup shared as Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano lauds the 'next big thing'
Asia nearly produced a fightback to contest Europe's 'Miracle at Medinah' but the first ever EurAsia Cup ended in a 10-10 draw
Saturday 29 March 2014
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano predicted the EurAsia Cup would be the “next big thing” as the inaugural contest ended in a thrilling 10-10 draw after Asia threatened to produce a victory to rival Europe's 'Miracle at Medinah' in the 2012 Ryder Cup.
Thongchai Jaidee's side were whitewashed 5-0 in Thursday's fourballs and trailed 7-3 going into Saturday's 10 singles matches, leaving Europe needing just three and a half points for victory.
But Jaidee kickstarted a stunning fightback by beating Ryder Cup hero Graeme McDowell 3&2 and after five further wins for Asia, the entire contest came down to the match between Fernandez-Castano and Japan's Hideto Tanihara.
Fernandez-Castano eagled the par-five 16th to get back on level terms before Tanihara saved par from a greenside bunker on the 17th to set up a nerve-wracking finish on the last.
Neither player was able to find a decisive birdie and after Fernandez-Castano held his nerve to hole out for par, he conceded Tanihara's shorter putt to ensure a tie.
The Spaniard said: "I had the feeling yesterday it could be down to me. I knew the Asian team would come out fighting and that's exactly what they did. I think a tie is a very fair result considering what a great comeback they had.
"I'm happy with the way I performed under pressure. This is the most nervous I have ever been. This is going to be the next big thing and I am really proud to be a part of the first edition of the EurAsia Cup."
Europe captain Miguel Angel Jimenez added: "I feel proud of my team, they've had a very intense week. We are not used to these conditions like the Asian team and they played very well today. To have a 10-10 result for the first EurAsia Cup is a very nice result. No-one wins, but at the same time golf wins."
Jaidee's win over McDowell got his side off to the perfect start and his opposite number Jimenez needed all of his experience to snatch victory over 23-year-old Malaysian wild card Nicholas Fung with a birdie on the 18th.
Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat then recovered from one down with four to play to birdie the next two holes and a par on the 17th was enough to seal a 2&1 victory over Thomas Bjorn.
Kim Hyung-sung defeated an off-form Pablo Larrazabal 4&2 and Prayad Marksaeng then almost snatched a remarkable win over Jamie Donaldson with a birdie on the 18th.
However, Donaldson commendably held his nerve to follow Marksaeng in for a birdie of his own to salvage half a point, having enjoyed a four-hole lead at the turn.
"I flushed it for nine holes and then I don't know if the heat got to me a little bit, but I hit some shocking shots and gave him a few holes," Donaldson said. "It was good to get a half in the end. It was important to hole that putt for the team and for my match, but I made it very difficult."
Gaganjeet Bhullar put another point on the board for Asia with a comprehensive victory over Thorbjorn Olesen and when Anirban Lahiri won the 16th and 17th to beat Victor Dubuisson 2&1, the match was tied at 8 1/2 points each.
A miserable day for Stephen Gallacher in the final match was summed up when he lost his ball with a wild tee shot on the 15th to seal a heavy defeat to Siddikur Rahman, putting Asia ahead for the first time all week.
However, having seen a three-hole lead reduced to one, Joost Luiten held his nerve to hole from five feet to par the 18th and beat Japan's Koumei Oda to level the scores.
That meant it all came down to Fernandez-Castano and Tanihara, the Spaniard missing a short par putt on the 15th to fall one down but getting back to all square with a stunning eagle on the 16th after Tanihara had piled on the pressure with a birdie from 20 feet.
Tanihara saved par from 10ft on the 17th to keep the match all square and with neither player really threatening a winning birdie, Europe's players held their breath as Fernandez-Castano - whose short putting has long been his Achilles heel - held his nerve.
"I'm very happy with how we came back and shared the trophy," Jaidee said. "My team played so well today. Before the final round I told my boys to stay positive, play your own game and just enjoy."
Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley was paying close attention at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club and McDowell added: "I think this is a very important team building exercise in a Ryder Cup year for the European Team."
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