SCOTLAND’S Stephen Gallacher helped Europe claim a stunning 5-0 lead after the opening fourballs in the inaugural EurAsia Cup in Malaysia this morning.
He joined forces with Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño to secure a 4 and 3 win over Indian duo Anirban Lahiri and Gaganjeet Bhullar.
It was the biggest of the five victories as Europe, skippered by Miguel Angel Jimenez, got off to a flying start in the Ryder Cup warm-up event at at Glenmarie Golf & Country Club in Kuala Lumpur.
Gallacher and Fernandez-Castano never looked back after the Spaniard holed from the fairway at the first for an eagle-2.
“I had the perfect yardage, but I knew I had to hit a good 9-iron to get it there and that’s exactly what I did,” he admitted afterwards.
“We heard the cheers and we were not really sure what had happened. I think our eagle was a premonition of what a fantastic day it was for the European team.”
Four up with six to play, Gallacher and “Gonzo” lost their only hole of the day to a birdie at the 14th but they quickly killed off any hopes their opponents had of staging a dramatic late fightback by closing out the match with a Gallacher birdie from ten feet at the next.
Jiménez brilliantly led the way, partnering compatriot Pablo Larrazábal to a 2 & 1 victory over Team Asia captain Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand in the top match.
Frenchman Victor Dubuisson and Dutchman Joost Luiten combined effectively for a 3 and 2 triumph over Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand and Bangladeshi Siddikur Rahman in a match they never trailed before Gallacher and Fernandez-Castaño weighed in with their impressive win.
Koumei Oda and Hideto Tanihara of Japan took their match to the 18th hole before losing by two holes to Danish duo Thomas Bjorn and Thorbjorn Olesen.
Malaysian star Nicholas Fung raised hopes of an upset with three birdies in seven holes as he and partner Kim Hyung-sung of Korea raced to a three-up lead over Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland and Jamie Donaldson of Wales but the Europeans showed their class by fighting back for a 3 and 1 victory to complete a day to forget for Thongchai’s men.
Jiménez, who sank two eagles and three birdies in the better-ball format, was delighted to see his team race ahead in the inaugural contest.
“Yeah, can’t get anything better than that really,” he said. “ I started with my match with Pablo and played good today and I don’t think there is a better way to lead a team.
“I don’t think anybody scored lower than me today so I was delighted with how I played personally but it was also really satisfying to see all of the boys playing so well.
The charismatic European captain has, unsurprisingly, retained his winning partnerships for tomorrow’s foursome matches but is not taking anything for granted.
“You don’t want to change anything that is working. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. In the foursomes, it’s a completely different format to fourball,” he added.
Thursday’s Fourball Results (Team Europe first):
Miguel Angel JIMENEZ/Pablo LARRAZABAL bt Thongchai JAIDEE/ Kiradech APHIBARNRAT 2 & 1
Thomas Bjorn/Thorbjorn OLESEN bt Koumei ODA/Hideto Tanihara 2 Holes
Victor DUBUISSON/Joost LUITEN bt Prayad MARKSAENG/SIDDIKUR Rahman 3 & 2
Gonzalo FDEZ-CASTANO/Stephen GALLACHER bt Gaganjeet BHULLAR/Anirban LAHIRI 4 & 3
Graeme MCDOWELL/Jamie DONALDSON bt KIM Hyung-sung/Nicholas FUNG 3 & 1
Friday’s Foursome Draw (Team Europe first):
9:40am: Miguel Angel JIMENEZ/Pablo LARRAZABAL vs Thongchai JAIDEE/ Kiradech APHIBARNRAT
9.55am: Thomas Bjorn/Thorbjorn OLESEN vs Prayad MARKSAENG/KIM Hyung-sung
10.10am: Victor DUBUISSON/Joost LUITEN vs Koumei ODA/Hideto Tanihara
10.25am: Gonzalo FDEZ-CASTANO/Stephen GALLACHER vs SIDDIKUR Rahman/Anirban LAHIRI
10.40am: Graeme MCDOWELL/Jamie DONALDSON vs Gaganjeet BHULLAR/Nicholas FUNG