Westwood tips Europe to take Seve Trophy is Paris showdown
WORLD number two Lee Westwood believes Continental Europe start as favourites for the Vivendi Seve Trophy in Paris despite having lost the last five events.
Great Britain and Ireland have been supremely dominant since their continental counterparts won the inaugural contest in 2000.
In the absence of Luke Donald world number two Westwood will spearhead the bid for a sixth victory.
Even without third-placed Rory McIlroy, GB and Ireland still have the two highest-ranked golfers with Ian Poulter 18th in the world, while they also have Open champion Darren Clarke in the team.
However, Continental Europe's strength comes in the form of Anders Hansen, Francesco Molinari and Thomas Bjorn at 25th, 26th and 27th in the world - three of five players in the top 40 compared to GB and Ireland's four.
And with the majority of the St-Nom-La-Breteche crowd behind them Westwood believes that tips the balance in favour of Continental Europe despite them having not won since the event was first staged in 2000.
"I don't know whether it's (the GB and Ireland team) invincible," said Westwood.
"I think on paper the European side have got [more] players higher in the world rankings and I suppose with that they are slight favourites.
"It will be hard for GB and Ireland with the European team having all that home support.
"But I think a lot of the British players have played a lot of matchplay golf over the years and might have a few tricks up their sleeves."
Westwood, making his first appearance in the event since 2003, is a Ryder Cup veteran and looking forward to playing in a team competition again.
The 38-year-old is getting back into gear following a much-needed break after August's US PGA but does not feel the lay-off has affected his consistency.
"I had a couple of weeks off after the PGA and basically just laid on the beach and did some waterskiing," he added.
"When I came back my swing felt out of synch and rusty but I've managed to finished sixth and fifth in the last two events.
"To say I haven't played my best those kind of results show the level of golf I play now and my average is not that average.
"It's eight years since I played the Seve Trophy and obviously there's a tinge of sadness this year with Seve (Ballesteros) passing away early in the year.
"But it's a good lineup and I'm sure in the true Seve tradition it will be as competitive as ever.
"It a chance to honour Seve's name as well."
Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez will have the honour of hitting the first tee shot tomorrow in the opening fourballs in honour of his late friend Ballesteros after GB and Ireland captain Paul McGinley relinquished the visiting team's right to be first off.
Team-mate Matteo Manassero, on his Seve Trophy debut, will surpass another Spaniard Sergio Garcia to become the youngest player in the event.
"Seve was my idol and I never got to know him that well but I met him once and that meant a lot for me," said the 18-year-old Italian, already the youngest British Amateur Champion and youngest player to make the cut at the Masters.
"But it means even more for my first chance in the event to be when we are missing him for the first time.
"We're going to hopefully give him a great honour."