Dunne to gain experience in Ryder Cup warm-up
Paul Dunne will have his first taste of playing for Europe this weekend ahead of a possible Ryder Cup debut in September.
The Wicklow golfer is currently seventh on the European Points List and sixth on the World Points List in terms of Ryder Cup qualification, which means he’s in the automatic qualification spots for the showdown with America in Paris later this year.
On Friday he will tee off in the EurAsia Cup for the first time when Europe take on Asia at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur.
Captain Thomas Bjorn, the Dane will also be skipper against the United States, has paired him with Alex Noren in Friday’s opening fourballs.
The last time the event was played, a European team led by Darren Clarke romped to an 18 1/2-5 1/2 blowout win over their Asian counterparts in the second edition of the biennial matchplay contest in 2016.
Along with Dunne, the current side includes Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood, who won last season's Race to Dubai, Tyrrell Hatton, Ross Fisher and Matthew Fitzpatrick, Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, Belgian Thomas Pieters, and the Swedish duo of Alex Noren and Henrik Stenson.
Experienced Englishman Paul Casey and France's Alex Levy are Bjorn's two wildcard picks against an Asian side led by three-time European Tour winner Arjun Atwal of India.
"I think the commitment from the players early on, wanting to play in this event, shows where European golf is," Bjorn said.
"There's an excitement about representing Europe. That's something that says a lot about those 12 players in there. They want to win."
Bjorn has six players with Ryder Cup experience on his roster in Malaysia and he believes this will be a good dress-rehearsal for him and many of his team.
"Well, most likely a lot of players on this team, or quite a few of the players on this team, are going to be in Paris," he said.
"So being here with them for a whole week and spending some different time with them is key. Yes, I can spend time with them on Tour, but there they are very into their own commitments and what they want to do.
"When I spend time with them here, it's a bit of a different environment, and I have their ear a little bit better this week than I do week in, week out because I am their captain this week and I'm guiding the whole group to where we want to go."
Bjorn is relaxed about captaining in the EurAsia Cup, which his team are odds-on favourites to win, but he admits the prospect of performing the same role at the Ryder Cup is already giving him sleepless nights
"In terms of how all-consuming the captaincy is, I really feel it's on my mind 24/7," he said.
"When I walk around (at events) and see Tyrrell Hatton and Sergio Garcia, my mind is on them, how they're playing and how I can utilise them.
"I thought that I might play a few tournaments in December, but when I came off the 18th green at the Nedbank Golf Challenge I changed my mind and was glad not to be playing in December, because I have so many thoughts about the team.
"I used all of December to get these thoughts down on paper and get my head straight about how I want this team to take shape. It really is on my mind all of the time, and no matter what little thing I'm thinking about, it has a Ryder Cup perspective.
"If that's the way Paul (McGinley) and Darren (Clarke) approached their captaincy, it's probably the reason I am approaching mine in the same way, and the reason that whoever is the next captain has to take the same approach.
"Everything that people say about it is true, and it's a lot more than you think it will be."
No. 3 Shot of the Year 👏🏼@Dunners11's walk-off, winning chip at the #BritishMasters. pic.twitter.com/K9UOgAExtM— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 4, 2018
Le Golf National in Paris will host the 42nd Ryder Cup in September when Bjorn will lead a side trying to wrest the title back from the United States, who last won in Europe 25 years ago.
Asia captain Atwal believes his youthful team, which boasts 11 European Tour titles between them, including multiple winners Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand and India's SSP Chawrasia, has the strength in depth to turn the contest in Asia's favour.
"Definitely everybody knows we are underdogs, except my team," the 44-year-old said. "There is no such thing as an underdog in matchplay golf. You can be underdogs on paper, but once the matches start, anything can happen."
Current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Gavin Green of Malaysia, his compatriot Nicholas Fung, India's Anirban Lahiri, South Korea's Kang Sung-hoon and An Byeong-un, Thai pair Phachara Khongwatmai and Poom Saksansin, China's Li Haotong and Japanese duo Yuta Ikeda and Hideto Tanihara complete the side.
The EurAsia Cup format sees six four-ball matches contested on Friday, six foursomes on Saturday and 12 singles matches on Sunday