Paul Dunne’s official confirmation of selection today to represent Europe in the EurAsia Cup next January is clearly a first step towards an eventual Ryder Cup cap.
Dunne was among 10 ‘available’ players to qualify automatically for Thomas Bjorn’s team that will tackle an Asian Team commencing on January 12th at the Glenmarie Country Club course in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Bjorn chose two ‘wildcard’ picks in Paul Casey and talented Frenchman Alex Levy.
Joining Dunne is recently-crowned European No. 1 Tommy Fleetwood and 2016 Open Champion, Henrik Stenson. Also in Bjorn’s side are the English trio of Tyrrell Hatton, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Ross Fisher along with Belguim’s Thomas Pieters.
Austrian giant, Bernd Wiesberger, Sweden’s Alex Noren and Spain’s very talented Rafa Cabrera-Bello make-up the 10 automatic qualifiers and the European Team will tee-up looking to retain the trophy they won in convincing fashion by 18 ½ – 5 ½ in 2016, but will face a strong Asian team on home soil captained, for the first time, by India’s Arjun Atwal.
For Dunne it is a superb reward after an wonderfully eye-catching 2016/17 season when he captured a first Tour victory in winning the British Masters and the Greystones golfer ended only his second full season on Tour 15th on the Race to Dubai while he is also currently ranked No. 77 in the world.
Former Irish Open winner Casey earned a Bjorn ‘wildcard’ pick less than a month after ending a self-imposed exile by surprisingly rejoining the European Tour, with the Dane declaring it would be ‘no brainer’ if Casey had not been chosen.
“It was a really hard task because there are so many good European players to choose from,” said Bjorn. “All have legitimate claims and all are well qualified to be on this team, so it was a tough choice to have to make. But in the end, I went for Paul and Alex.”
“Once Paul announced he was rejoining the European Tour, and therefore making himself available for selection, that decision was a no-brainer for me. He is a wonderful player with a lot of experience and I think the young guys can learn a lot from him.”
“He’s also got a fantastic match play record and not just in Ryder Cups. He is comfortable with where he is in his life right now and him wanting to part of the EurAsia Cup team also shows his commitment to the European Tour and the road he is now on.”
“Following on from that, I picked Alex as he is a player that has impressively risen through the ranks in the past few years. He has wonderful French character and flair as well as a lot of attitude and passion for the game. He is also very consistent which can be a great asset in match play”.
Bjørn, who played in the inaugural EurAsia Cup match in 2014 which ended in a 10-10 tie, said: “The interest from the players has been very strong and you can see that from the fact that the ten automatic qualifiers come from within the top 20 of the final Race to Dubai Rankings. That is a good indication of what the EurAsia Cup is becoming, and I think European golf is in a great place right now.”
“I’m very encouraged by the make-up of the team and we are strong from 1 through to 12. I have some great experience in terms of six players who have experienced Ryder Cups, as well as the 2016 Open Champion in Henrik. But I also have some exciting young talent led by Tommy and Tyrrell.”
“Obviously Tommy has had an amazing year and deserved to be crowned European Tour No. 1 last weekend. But Tyrrell has also had a great season, the highlights of which were his back-to-back wins in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the Italian Open last month. As captain, I am looking forward to seeing how all 12 deliver on this particular stage. It’s a different kind of format to what they are used to week‑in, week‑out, so it will be interesting to see how they react to that environment.”
“It’s a great honour for me to be captain and I’m looking forward to going to Malaysia in January to face what I know will be a very strong Asian team. We want to win the EurAsia Cup again and I believe we are going with a team very capable of doing that.”
The line-ups for the third EurAsia Cup will be completed next Tuesday November 28 when Arjun Atwal names his Asian team