SAINT-NOM-LA-BRETECHE, France – Continental Europe made a solid start in the Seve Trophy by opening up a two-point lead against Britain and Ireland after the first-day four-balls on Thursday.
Europe, which lost the last six meetings and is trying to win the trophy for the first time since the inaugural contest in 2000, won three of the five pairings on a day of mixed weather conditions at Le Golf National, the Paris-area facility that will host the 2018 Ryder Cup.
Nicolas Colsaerts and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano finished the day by winning 5 and 3 against Scotland’s Scott Jamieson and Marc Warren.
The current trophy holders made a bright start when Stephen Gallacher and Paul Lawrie beat veterans Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez 3 and 2 in the opener.
"They played very well. Our boys played very well, too, but they made a few more birdies than us. Our turn tomorrow," said Britain and Ireland Captain Sam Torrance said. "You put your best match out first and they stood up to be counted with a great win."
Europe Captain Jose Maria Olazabal sent out his most experienced pairing first with Bjorn having played in six contests, while Jimenez is the only player to have competed in all seven. They are the most capped players in the history of the event with a total of 59 matches between them, but were undone by three birdies in the last four holes from Lawrie and Gallacher.
"Obviously there is a little bit more pressure when you are going out there first," former British Open champion Lawrie said. "You want to get a point on the board, which we managed to do and we both combined very well today."
But Europe won the second and fourth matches, as Mikko Ilonen and Thorbjorn Olesen beat Tommy Fleetwood and Chris Wood by a single hole and Gregory Bourdy and Joost Luiten won 2 and 1 against Jamie Donaldson and David Lynn.
"Joost played extraordinarily well today and made a bunch of birdies. Thorbjorn also played very well," Olazabal said. "It was a great experience for them but the main thing is to win points and I think the team is really happy today."
The third game was halved as Britain and Ireland missed their chance.
Ryder Cup player Paul Casey and Simon Khan were on course to get a point for Torrance's side, but Italy's Francesco Molinari birdied the last as he and countryman Matteo Manassero earned a halve. Molinari enjoyed a slice of luck when his wild drive on the 18th finished on an adjacent fairway and he then hit a fine approach shot to set up the birdie.
"It looked like 4-1 down and it almost could have turned to 3-2 ahead but that's golf," Torrance said.
After bright conditions early on, there was heavy rain in the afternoon.
Ilonen quickly got Europe back on track with three birdies on the front nine, and Olesen restored their two-shot lead with a birdie on the 13th hole after Fleetwood reduced the deficit with a birdie on 11.
Lawrie expressed his disappointment last week that eight of his Ryder Cup teammates snubbed the tournament.
Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter aren't playing despite being B&I's six leading qualifiers. Sergio Garcia and Peter Hansen declined places in the Europe team.
The Seve Trophy, which is played in non-Ryder Cup years, is named after the late Seve Ballesteros, who died in 2011.
Thursday four-balls results:
Paul Lawrie/Stephen Gallacer, B&I, def. Thomas Bjorn/Miguel Angel Jimenez, CE, 3&2
Mikko Ilonen/Thorbjorn Olesen, CE, def. Tommy Fleetwood/Chris Wood, B&I, 1 hole
Francesco Molinari/Matteo Manassero, CE, vs. Paul Casey/Simon Khan, B&I, halved
Joost Luiten/Gregory Bourdy, CE, def. Jamie Donaldson/David Lynn, B&I, 2&1
Nicolas Colsarts/Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, CE, def. Marc Warren/Scott Jamieson, B&I, 5&3
DAY 1: Continental Europe 3 1/2, Britain & Ireland 1 1/2
Friday four-balls pairings:
Ilonen/Olesen, CE, vs. Casey/Khan, B&I
Molinari/Manassero, CE, vs. Lynn/Jamieson, B&I
Bjorn/Jimenez, CE, vs. Donaldson/Warren, B&I
Luiten/Bourdy, CE, vs. leetwood/Wood, B&I
Colsaerts/Fernandez-Castano, CE, vs. Lawrie/Gallacher, B&I