Darren Clarke will put his captaincy skills to the test in this weekend’s EurAsia Cup before he tries to lead Europe to an eighth Ryder Cup victory in the last 10 contests in October.
Clarke insists the clash with the United States at Hazeltine will be at the back of his mind when his side take on Asia in Kuala Lumpur, although the parallels between the two events are hard to escape.
Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter, one of Clarke’s two wild cards, will partner Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger in Friday’s opening fourball match against Anirban Lahiri and Korea’s Jeunghun Wang.
And Clarke’s other wild card and nine-time Ryder Cup player Lee Westwood has been entrusted with the anchor role, partnering fellow Englishman Chris Wood against Kiradech Aphibarnrat and SSP Chawrasia.
Yorkshiremen Danny Willett and Matt Fitzpatrick could be another European pair in Minnesota and they face Byeong-hun An and Thongchai Jaidee, while Victor Dubuisson and Soren Kjeldsen take on Danny Chia and Nicholas Fung.
Ross Fisher and Kristoffer Broberg face Prayad Marksaeng and KT Kim before WGC-Bridgestone Invitational winner Shane Lowry and Andy Sullivan play Wu Ashun and Shingo Katayama.
“Obviously there’s Ryder Cup stuff going on in the back of my mind with possible pairings, but first and foremost, it’s about the EurAsia Cup this week,” Clarke said.
“We’re here to try and win, as Jeev (Milkha Singh, Asia’s captain) is with his team. The thoughts and everything I’m trying to do is going towards this week.
“When we’re finished this week, if we come back with a few pairings and hopefully if I’ve learned something from this week come September, then so be it. First and foremost, it’s definitely this week and the EurAsia Cup.”
Poulter has been a talismanic figure in the Ryder Cup, earning the nicknames of ‘Mr Ryder Cup’ and the ‘Postman’ because he always delivers a point for the side.
The 40-year-old had won an incredible 80% of his matches before the 2014 contest, but two halves and one defeat saw that drop to 72.22 %, with Justin Rose now just behind at 71.42% after three wins and two halves at Gleneagles.
“The reason why I certainly like the Ryder Cup and obviously this format is because it’s the purest form of golf. It’s matchplay,” Poulter said.
“You see your opponent right in the face and you can go out there and you can make a difference.
“You can hole a chip shot; you can hole a bunker shot; you can hole a long putt; you can turn a match around. In strokeplay events, that doesn’t really happen, but in matchplay, it does.
“The second you hit that first tee shot, you want to get your opponent off the golf course as soon as possible. This format really excites me.”
The inaugural contest in 2014 finished in a 10-10 draw after Asia fought back from being whitewashed in the opening session and trailing 7-3 heading into the singles.
“I’m really excited about this,” captain Singh said. “Both the teams are very strong.
“At the end of the day I think whoever holes more putts, good course management, that’s what it’s all going to come down to.
“Both the sides are really experienced. But I still feel my team looks very good. I’m positive, I’m excited, and I believe in my team that they are going to do really well.”
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