Sport Golf

Saturday 21 April 2018

Olazabal's Europeans hungry for success

Chris Wood reacts to missing a putt during the fourballs at the Seve Trophy
Chris Wood reacts to missing a putt during the fourballs at the Seve Trophy

James Corrigan

Who says the Seve Trophy is irrelevant? The smile on Jose Maria Olazabal's face as his Continental Europe side took a commanding lead after the opening fourballs showed how importantly he rates the match.

But then, the Continentals have been beaten by Great Britain and Ireland six times in a row, an anomaly Olazabal is determined to redress in the beautiful environs of Saint-Nom-la-Breteche.

"This is a great experience for all our young guys, but it is all about winning points," the Spaniard said. "We have had enough of losing and are really happy with our first day's work."

Looking on, Paul McGinley, Olazabal's successor as Ryder Cup captain, must also have been impressed with what he saw from a couple of the Continental rookies as they took a 3.5-1.5 advantage.

Joost Luiten, in particular, was immense against Jamie Donaldson and David Lynn. Gregory Bourdy had the luxury of sitting back and watching his Dutch partner fly through the front nine in 29 shots to take them clear. Their 2&1 victory was the very least Luiten deserved.

"Joost played extraordinarily well, made a bunch of birdies and didn't give his opponents much of a chance," Olazabal said. "And Thorbjorn Olesen also played very well."

McGinley has regularly mentioned Olesen as a future Ryder Cup player and the last-hole success by the Dane and Finland's Mikko Illonen over Chris Wood and Tommy Fleetwood would only have strengthened his suspicions that his debut could come at Gleneagles next year.

Wood had been unbeaten in the Seve Trophy, having won four and halved his other match in his previous appearance in 2009.

The final hole was again to prove kind to the Continentals 15 minutes later, when Francesco Molinari's outrageous birdie pegged back Paul Casey and Simon Khan.

The English pair had fought back from being one down with four to play to move one up, courtesy of three successive birdies by Casey.

And, when Molinari wildly hooked his drive on the 18th, all the pressure seemed to be on his fellow Italian Matteo Manassero.


But Molinari's tee-shot went so far left he found the adjoining fairway and was blessed with an inviting line into the pin.

The man who gave Europe their winning half-point against Tiger Woods at last year's Ryder Cup duly capitalised on his good fortune, striking a lob-wedge to 10 feet and holing the putt.

So, Sam Torrance, the GB&I captain, was left feeling very grateful to his opening pair of Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher. The Scots beat the highly experienced partnership of Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez 3&2. (© Daily telegraph, London)

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