By Stefanie McIntyre
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Rival captains Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thongchai Jaidee have predicted big things for the new Ryder Cup-style EurAsia Cup to be held near Kuala Lumpur next year.
Europe and Asia will clash over three days at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club from March 27-29.
"I think this event is going to have a big future," Spaniard Jimenez told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
"Asia has a lot of talent. Golf is growing so much around the world now and particularly in Asia. I think we are going to see some very interesting matches.
"The Ryder Cup is such a magnificent event," said Jimenez of the biennial competition between Europe and the United States. "This is about to follow the same criteria."
Thongchai, three times a winner of the Asian Tour's order of merit, echoed the views of his opposing skipper.
"I think in the future this EurAsia Cup is going to be pretty close to the Ryder Cup," the experienced Thai golfer told Reuters. "This is going to be a key competition for a long time."
Ben Cowen, deputy director of the European Tour's international policy, also said his organization had high hopes for the biennial tournament.
"The Ryder Cup started back in 1927 so that's taken a long time to get to the position it's in now as the leading golf team event in the world," Cowen told Reuters.
"We hope the EurAsia Cup in the future will get half as big as the Ryder Cup if not as big but there's a long way to go on that.
"This is just the first event and we hope it will develop swiftly but it could take some time to get to Ryder Cup level."
Cowen said an important factor would be getting the Asian countries to unite in their team's cause.
"I don't think there's any shortage of desire out here," he added. "I guess the key will be the Asian countries uniting and getting behind their team.
"The European team have the Ryder Cup and have that experience already."
The new tournament is a co-sanctioned event and Asian Tour chairman Kyi Hla Han said his players were itching to compete in it.
"I talked to the top Chinese player Liang Wenchong the other week and he said, 'I want to play my way in to qualify for the EurAsia Cup'," Han told Reuters.
"He's proud to be representing Asia and that's what we want. The players want to compete in this match and be proud to be representing their respective continents."
World number 12 Graeme McDowell has given the EurAsia Cup a massive boost by pledging to represent Europe in March.
The former U.S. Open champion is one of five automatic choices in Jimenez's team, along with the playing captain, Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Frenchman Victor Dubuisson and Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
Four more players from the world rankings and a captain's pick will complete Europe's 10-man lineup.
Thongchai will also be a playing captain. His team is to be made up of the leading four players from Asia's final order of merit, the top three available from the world rankings and two captain's picks.
(Writing by Tony Jimenez in London, editing by Tim Collings)