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Sunday, March 30, 2014

...But the Asian Team Really Won. Right?

So the first Eurasian Cup finished out 10-10 and was declared a tie. Really?

The Eurasian Cup trophy presentation

Look, from one viewpoint I can see why it happened. As the inaugural event, neither team already had possession of the Cup so it wasn't as if either side was wimping out to prevent losing it. And apparently this wasn't a spur of the moment decision like it was at the Presidents Cup several years ago.

Still, I can't help but feel that the Asian Team won. I feel like that rule was put in place to "protect" the Asians in case they weren't good enough to hold their own against the Euros.

Turned out they didn't need any help.

Here are the simple facts: On Day 1 in fourballs -- a format where the Euros routinely beat the Americans at the Ryder Cup -- the Asian team got skunked 5-0. But the Asians beat the Euros 10-5 over the last two days, including a singles win over Graeme McDowell, the Euro team's "big gun."

Like I said, turned out the Asians didn't need any help... and I suspect they would have won a playoff.

The announcers noted that this was a good trial run for potential members of the European Ryder Cup team. I suppose that was true... but I'm not sure it gave the Euros much good news.

In my opinion, it's the American Ryder Cup team who should really pay attention to this event. I've had a theory about the recent Euro dominance in the Ryder Cup -- based on a few of the online scorecards I've checked -- and this event more or less backed it up. Do you want to know why I think the Euros have dominated the Ryder Cup recently but didn't do so well in this first Eurasian Cup?
At the Ryder Cup, the US team generally wins holes with birdie while the Euros win holes with par. But the Asians forced the Euros to make birdies in order to win holes... and that wasn't so easy.
It doesn't happen on every hole, of course. But if you compare some of the US-Euro matches with some of this week's Asian-Euro matches, you'll see the pattern. For example, here are the first 3 singles matches:
  • In the Jiménez 1-up victory over Fung, the Mechanic won 5 holes -- 4 with birdie, 1 with par. (He could have won 2 of the birdie holes with par.) Fung won 4 holes -- 2 with birdie, 2 with par.
  • In the Jaidee 3&2 victory over McDowell, Jaidee won 5 holes -- 4 with birdie, 1 with par. Graeme won 2 holes -- 1 with birdie, 1 with par.
  • In the Aphibarnrat 2&1 victory over Björn, Kiradech won 7 holes -- 3 with birdie, 4 with par. Thomas won 5 holes -- 4 with birdie, 1 with bogey.
Let's compare the first 3 singles matches at the last (2012) Ryder Cup:
  • In the Donald 2&1 victory over Watson, Luke won 4 holes -- 2 with birdie, 2 with par. Watson won 2 holes -- both with birdie.
  • In the Poulter 2up victory over Simpson, Ian won 6 holes -- 5 with birdie, 1 with par. (He could have parred one of those birdie holes and won it.) Webb won 4 holes -- 2 with birdie, 2 with par.
  • In the McIlroy 2&1 victory over Bradley, Rory won 5 holes -- all with birdie. (He could have won one hole with par.) Keegan won 3 holes -- 2 with birdie, 1 with par.
Now you're probably thinking that, in both cases, both sides won some holes with par. That's true... but my point is that the winners of each match generally win more holes with par than the losers. Look at how these matches change if the winner only halves with par:
  • Jiménez and Fung halve.
  • Jaidee and McDowell are tied with 2 to play.
  • Björn BEATS Aphibarnrat 2&1!!!
  • Donald and Watson are tied with 1 to play.
  • Poulter beats Simpson 1up.
  • McIlroy still beats Bradley 2&1 because he won every hole with birdie... even though he didn't have to.
Only 2 of these matches have the same outcome if the loser just makes more pars. I hope Tom Watson drills this into our team this year: PAR MATTERS!

And that's my point: The Asians were playing much better than the Euros by the end of the Eurasian Cup. They had all the momentum. Regardless of what the official results say, I have a feeling that the Asians walk off feeling like they won.

And the Euros probably do also.

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