Captain Clarke delighted to grab EurAsia Cup lead

Darren Clarke
Darren Clarke

European captain Darren Clarke was delighted with his side’s performance as they claimed a three-point lead over Asia after the opening day of the second EurAsia Cup in Kuala Lumpur.

Clarke, who will also lead Europe in the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in October, saw team talisman Ian Poulter lead from the front by partnering Bernd Wiesberger to a 4&3 win over Anirban Lahiri and Jeunghun Wang.

And Clarke’s other wild card Lee Westwood also justified his selection by combining with fellow Englishman Chris Wood to beat Kiradech Aphibarnrat and SSP Chawrasia 2&1 in the final match.

In between there were also wins for Ross Fisher and Kristoffer Broberg, who thrashed Prayad Marksaeng and KT Kim 6&4, and Shane Lowry and Andy Sullivan over Wu Ashun and Shingo Katayama, with the home side’s only win seeing Byeong-hun An and Thongchai Jaidee beat Danny Willett and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Victor Dubuisson played through the pain barrier after suffering a knee injury on the 15th hole as he and Soren Kjeldsen halved their match with Danny Chia and Nicholas Fung.

“A three-point lead after day one, it’s a wonderful start for Europe,” said Clarke, who will be taking nothing for granted after Europe squandered a 5-0 lead in the inaugural contest two years ago, which ended in a 10-10 draw.

“There were a lot of matches there that it could have swung either way on the back nine.

“Halfway around Europe were leading in all the matches. I was on the radio to a few of the other guys and said, ‘This is match play, Asia are going to come back at some stage on the back nine, and that’s exactly what they did.’

“We had a strong couple of matches and managed to finish with a very good result.”

Meanwhile, a resurgent Ross McGowan carded a sparkling 62 to claim the halfway lead in the Joburg Open as he looked to claim an overdue second European Tour title.

McGowan fired six birdies, two eagles and just one bogey on the West Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club to finish 14 under par, three shots ahead of the chasing pack.

The 33-year-old won the Madrid Masters in 2009, aided by a career-best 60 in the third round, but lost his card in 2011 before regaining it last November by finishing fifth in the qualifying school in Spain.

“I played well yesterday and started well today, opening up with two birdies,” said McGowan, who was in contention in last week’s BMW SA Open before a closing 74 dropped him into a tie for 12th.

Paul Dunne was the best placed of the Irish contingent in the field, carding a second round 63 to end the day tied for eighth on nine under par.

Michael Hoey and Kevin Phelan both made the cut on three under par but Ruaidhri McGee missed out.