Kiradech to shine in second home
David John previews the EurAsia Cup and advices a small stakes punt in the top Asian scorer market.
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If the "Ryder Cup of the East", as Jamie Donaldson has labelled it, whets your appetite then this week's EurAsia Cup will be right up your street.
Kuala Lumpur's Glenmarie Golf & CC stages what is basically a rebranded Royal Trophy with three days of competition for the two 10-man teams - five fourball matches, five foursomes and then 10 singles from Thursday to Saturday.
Purists might sniff a bit when compared to the main event that takes place later this year at Gleneagles while it is certainly not a hugely appealing medium to have a punt on to be honest.
But the fact we are in a Ryder Cup year means players like Donaldson, Graeme McDowell and Stephen Gallacher to mention just three do see it as a worthwhile exercise to add to their schedule as they try and nail down a place on Paul McGinley's team.
It certainly looks like a very strong European team on paper in terms of quality and experience so it is little shock to see them being well backed and no bigger than 8/15 to bring home the spoils.
Playing captain Miguel Angel Jimenez is the ideal man for the job and although always ready to give it his best shot, the Spaniard has set a fairly relaxed tone to the week and will keep his interference to a minimum once he has decided on his selection strategy.
His opposite number Thongchai Jaidee is a legend in this part of the world and with his 57-year-old vice-captain Boonchu Ruangkit in tow, he will be hoping their leadership and local support will provide the necessary inspiration.
Asia have drifted in the betting out to 5/2 and although the home advantage over European players in the Far East has lessened greatly in recent seasons, a steamy week with temperatures in the low 90s is forecast with a good chance of disruption from thunderstorms.
Keep in mind as well that a number of Jimenez's side have made the journey from playing at Bay Hill in Florida and will need to acclimatise pretty smartly considering the time difference as well.
The plan is to keep stakes very low-key but the one player who does look a cut above from the rest of his team-mates is Kiradech Aphibarnrat and he looks worth a modest investment at 5/1 to be the top scorer among the Asian players.
With all players involved and just three points on offer, there is a fair chance of a dead-heat in the market but the Thai star represents a key cog in the wheel if the hosts are going to upstage the favourites.
He considers Malaysia to be his "second home" and will be back in Kuala Lumpur in the middle of next month to defend the title he won impressively 12 months ago by a shot from Edoardo Molinari.
He arguably eclipsed that performance later in the year with his T3 at the CIMB Classic on the PGA Tour behind Ryan Moore and Gary Woodland, a performance that allowed him to take up a special membership for this year in the USA.
His form so far may not have been very inspiring but he has admitted that he has been playing a lot of new courses while the switch to Callaway clubs for 2014 has understandably required a period of adjustment.
He also lost his coach Pro Jew in December so has been working alone but the signs are that he is not far away. He explained: "I am not sure exactly what is missing from my game but I feel it is about to hit its best form again. I am 90% there and have been practising hard.
"My attacking game will suit this format as I will be aiming for pins and going for birdies and eagles."
Jaidee and Ruangkit will be on hand to cast an eye over him as well and in what could be an emotional week, I just get the feeling Aphibarnrat will step up and embrace the role of being the pivotal figure any team needs.