Shah Alam (Malaysia): Non-playing captain Jeev Milkha Singh's wealth of experience will hold the key for an underdog Asia against Europe in this week's Eurasia Cup golf tournament, feels fast-rising Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri.
The 29-year-old, whose growth as an international golfer has been phenomenal over the last 12 month, feels that it was the inaugural EurAsia Cup in 2014 at the same venue, the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club, which in a way kick-started his road to the elite.
Speaking on a variety of topics, the world No 40, who begins his first full PGA Tour season from next week, feels Asian golf has matured in the two years since the inaugural edition.
He added that the non-playing captain Jeev Milkha Singh's vast experience and knowledge of players on both sides, plus Asia's rising might with six players in Top-60 of the Official World Golf Rankings, could put a lot of pressure on the European Team led by Ryder Cup captain, former British Open winner Darren Clarke.
The Europeans have hugely experienced Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, established and stars like Danny Willett, Shane Lowery, Victor Dubuisson, Soren Kjeldsen, Chris Wood and Bernd Wiesberger and young guns like Mathew Fitzpatrick and Kristoffer Broberg.
Ten of the 12 European team members are in Top-60 with Broberg (65) and Ross Fisher (82) not too far behind.
Talking of his captain, who is a legend in Indian golf, Lahiri said, "I think Thongchai did a fantastic job two years back. But difference between the EurAsia Cup 2014 and 2016 is that we have a non-playing captain. So what Thongchai did two years back was beyond commendable, to play and captain is probably harder than anything else.
I think it's fantastic to have Jeev at the helm. He's had a lot of experience. He's played in a lot of team formats. He knows all of us. He knows the players who are coming in from Japan and Korea, as well.
"So he brings with him a lot of experience, and apart from that, obviously he's spent a lot more time thinking about his captaincy, because he doesn't have to think about playing right now," he added.
Lahiri said Jeev has struck a good rapport with the players in the team. "He comes and talks to us and wants to know what we want and what makes us comfortable and to play with our strengths, which is I think the greatest job of a captain is to nurture his team, and he does that really well."
Sitting alongside Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Malaysia Nicholas Fung and Korea's KT Kim, Lahiri said, "I think the first EurAsia Cup we had was a critical event for Asian golf. If you compare the teams, whether it's the European Team or the Asian Team, there's been so much improvement, especially on the Asian side.
If you look at the Asian Team we have now -- I think we have five or six people who are in the Top 60 in the world, and that was not the case (in 2014); there was only Thongchai. That tells you that Asian golf has kicked on and has gotten stronger over the last two years."
When the first EurAsia Cup took place in 2014, there was a feeling that Europe would outplay Asia, but Asia got a 10-10 with a superb Sunday effort.
"I think the first really good sign is that Europe has sent a much stronger team. I still think that we are going to be underdogs going into the event, which is a good thing for us, because I think it puts more pressure on Europe to win. If they send more players who have got Ryder Cup experience, match-play experience, and they still can't beat us, it's going to send some tremors down The Ryder Cup Team," Lahiri said.