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Golf: Han says Asian Tour players “gung ho” to make EurAsia Cup team

Kyi Hla Han says the EurAsia Cup has strong support from Asian Tour players and that the Asia versus Europe team event distinguishes itself from the ongoing Royal Trophy by virtue of qualifying criteria and Tour sanctions.

Kyi Hla Han says the EurAsia Cup has strong support from Asian Tour players and that the Asia versus Europe team event distinguishes itself from the Royal Trophy by virtue of qualifying criteria and Tour sanctions. Photos: SportAsia.

December 3, 2013: Asian Tour Chairman Kyi Hla Han said players on the continental circuit are clamouring to make the 2014 EurAsia Cup team in the same way European players target a place in The Ryder Cup.

 

Han is one of the creators of the new Asia versus Europe team event, which is sanctioned by The European Tour and Asian Tour and will be held at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from March 27-29.

 

“I started talks with The European Tour to do something like this, a Europe versus Asia match, about four or five years ago at the Hong Kong Open. We feel that this will become a great event, just like the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup, and over time it will be on a par,” Han told SportAsia.

 

“The European players are always proud to call themselves a Ryder Cup player and right now, from talking to my players on the Asian Tour, they’re all wanting to play their way into the EurAsia Cup team.

 

“They’re taking it very seriously. They’re really gung-ho to get on to the team and play against The European Tour. We’ve got fantastic support from our players.”

 

Han, 52, believes it’s the battle to get onto the team, following set qualification criteria, and the support of both professional tours that distinguish the EurAsia Cup from the ongoing Royal Trophy, an annual Asia versus Europe event that will be staged for the seventh time later this month.

 

The Royal Trophy was held in Thailand for its first five editions from 2006 (the 2008 tournament was cancelled) before moving to Brunei last December when Asia won a playoff to record their second win, adding to a 10-6 victory in 2009.

 

European legends Seve Ballesteros, Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal have all captained the visiting side, while the tournament has attracted many of the top players from both continents. The seventh edition will be held from December 20-22 at Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou, China.

 

Despite the obvious similarities between the Royal Trophy and the EurAsia Cup, Han – a former touring pro who represented Myanmar in four World Cups – believes it’s the distinctions that give the newcomer a strong footing for the future.

 

“The difference is that our eligibility criteria is set. For the Royal Trophy, the players don’t see how they’re going to get in unless they get invited,” said Han, who won the 1999 Order of Merit on the former Asian PGA Tour.

 

“Here, they know what they have to do, either on our Order of Merit or get high enough on the world ranking, and that’s what they’re doing. That’s the way it should be and that’s how the Ryder Cup is and how the Presidents Cup is.

 

“The players know beforehand what they have to do to get on the team. For the Royal Trophy, they don’t. Basically, it’s a handpicked matchplay event. Plus, our event is endorsed by the Tours.”

 

Han believes Team Asia have the ideal leader in Thongchai Jaidee, with the 44-year-old Thai and flamboyant Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez named on Monday as the respective playing captains.

 

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Han believes Thongchai Jaidee (right), pictured with Europe playing-captain Miguel Angel Jimenez (left), will be “a great captain” for Team Asia due to his experience on both the Asian Tour and European Tour.

Thongchai, a former paratrooper, has won a record three Asian Tour Order of Merit titles, yet has played the majority of recent seasons on The European Tour, where he has five titles and finished ninth on this year’s Race to Dubai.

 

“Thongchai will be a great captain. He’s really gung ho,” Han said. “We took a recent flight together and he’s already thinking about his strategies, how to make his captain’s picks. He’s really fired up. We’ll be the underdogs, but we’ll put on a strong, good fight against the European team.”

 

However, Jimenez struck the first blow when the 49-year-old announced 2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowell, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano as the first players to join him in his 10-man Team Europe.

 

Team Asia will include the top four Asian players on the 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit – to be finalised next month – along with three players invited through their world ranking and two captain’s picks.

 

Big-hitting Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, has a strong lead in the money list with US$1.1 million, while Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh, Indians Gaganjeet Bhullar and Anirban Lahiri, and China No. 1 Liang Wenchong are leading the chase for other automatic spots.

 

Han, who retired as a player in 2004, admits he would have enjoyed an inter-continental team tournament during his playing days.

 

“It would have been great,” said Han, who turned pro in 1980. “That’s why I thought about doing this and why I brought it up with The European Tour four or five years ago. It’s great to see this happening right now.”

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