Britain-Ireland holds off Europe rally to retain Vivendi Seve Trophy

britain & ireland vivendi seve trophy team
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The Britain & Ireland team retained the Vivendi Seve Trophy, but only after a nerve-wracking final day in France.
PA Sport and Associated Press

Series: European Tour

Published: Sunday, September 18, 2011 | 1:16 p.m.

Britain & Ireland held off a strong fightback from Continental Europe in Sunday’s singles to retain the Vivendi Seve Trophy 15 1/2 to 12 1/2.

The defending champions had a commanding five-point lead heading into the final day. But Continental Europe won Sunday’s first five singles to level the contest with each team on 11 1/2 points.

It took narrow wins by Ian Poulter, Scott Jamieson and Mark Foster to clinch victory.

“Losing five and a half points out of the first six was a big body blow to the team,” Britain & Ireland Captain Paul McGinley said. “But fortunately the guys at the end came through when I really needed them.”

Spanish golf great Seve Ballesteros created the event, a biennial competition, to help Europeans get more match-play experience outside the Ryder Cup. Continental Europe captured the inaugural event in 2000, but Britain & Ireland have since won the trophy six straight times.

Thomas Bjorn beat Lee Westwood 2 and 1 to earn the first point and spur Continental Europe’s comeback. The two-time winner on the 2011 European Tour made four birdies and capitalized on three bogeys from Westwood to rally from 3 down.

“Lee came out this morning and was sensational the first few holes,” Bjorn said. “It was just a case of hanging on and hanging on, but a couple of mistakes and it let me back in. I played some nice stuff near the end, but it was a hard-fought battle.”

Francesco Molinari outplayed Jamie Donaldson 4 and 3. The Italian had a bogey-free day, sinking three birdies to add a second point for Continental Europe.

Anders Hansen edged Simon Dyson by a hole and was Continental Europe’s best player, winning three out of four points in the event.

Alexander Noren cruised to a 4 and 3 win over Robert Rock. The Swede was 5 up at the turn and protected his lead on the back nine despite two bogeys.

Miguel Angel Jimenez defeated Darren Clarke 4 and 2 to tie the contest at 11 1/2 to 11 1/2. The Spanish veteran made the difference by winning four holes on the back nine as the match was still all square at the turn. British Open winner Clarke performed poorly, making five bogeys and a double.

Nicolas Colsaerts trailed by two but the Belgian birdied the 15th and holed an eagle on the 17th to halve his match with David Horsey.

Jamieson beat Pablo Larrazabal by a hole to give Britain & Ireland a 13-12 lead. Larrazabal had three bogeys and a double bogey to go 4 down after 10 holes and could not fully recover despite three birdies and an eagle on the back nine.

“We knew they were going to come out hard and fast,” Jamieson said. “They certainly got the momentum going. I saw on the 15th green the first five matches and that we had lost them all.”

“I knew my point was probably going to count and be a deciding one. I was proud that I hung in there and made it count.”

Poulter edged Matteo Manassero by a hole. The Italian teenager led until the 15th but Poulter birdied the last three holes to fire Britain & Ireland to a 14-12 lead.

“Matteo played very solid today,” Poulter said. “He made me have to win my match. I was aggressive in the last few holes and it paid off.”

The World Match Play champion was the best player for Britain & Ireland, earning four out of five points.

“What a man to have on a team,” McGinley said about Poulter. “It’s not just the way he plays golf and his love of match play, but his personality is infectious around the place. Absolutely infectious.”

“I would have him in the team every day of the week. No doubt about that. And I think the Americans would too if they could.”

Foster birdied the 17th and parred the 18th to beat Raphael Jacquelin by a hole and secure victory for Britain & Ireland.

Peter Hanson halved his match with Ross Fisher to hand Continental Europe a 6-4 win in Sunday’s singles, but that was not enough to prevent Britain & Ireland from clinching the trophy.

Britain & Ireland entered the contest as underdogs as they were missing the top-ranked Luke Donald and the last two U.S. Open champions, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

All the players on the Continental Europe team were in the world top 100, while Britain & Ireland had three players ranked outside the top 100 -- Foster, Rock, and Jamieson.

“I’m kind of relieved,” McGinley said. “We were underdogs, then we became strong favorites going into the singles and we just about got over the line.”

Horsey finished all square against Colsaerts to halt Europe's run of five straight wins at the start of the day, while the European fightback further derailed when Jamieson finished 1 up against Larrazabal to swing the momentum back in B&I's favor.

"It feels amazing and I'm pleased for the boys," said Foster after his victory-clinching round. "I was playing really well and then lost the pace of green for four or five holes and I left Raphael back in and I knew I was in for a game then and I had to refocus. It would have hurt a lot if we hadn't won today and I'm glad to pull through."

McGinley was delighted that his cocktail of experienced hands and rookies had come good when the pressure was on -- and in particular reserved special praise for Vivendi Trophy newcomer Jamieson.

"Lucky I had the team well balanced out, and had not just experience but guys in form balanced throughout the team, so they came through in the end," McGinley said. "Scott Jamieson's match was huge, that kind of turned the tide in our favor. I actually focused mostly on Scott's game, I walked every shot with him from the 14th. I knew how pivotal that match was going to be and he was brilliant.

"I wanted Scott to keep playing pretty conservatively coming in there because it was difficult conditions, and he did exactly as I said,” he explained. "I'm so proud of the way he's come through this week, and he's just one guy. David Horsey as well, a huge half point there.

"I get a huge sense of satisfaction seeing someone like Scott or David Horsey coming though the way they did. Mark Foster as well, it was pivotal that his game stayed one up, that it stayed in the red or it stayed in the green and it never got into the blue, and he did that. And of course Ross Fisher was a rock at the end."

McGinley always had faith in his players to produce a strong finish despite their nightmare start to the final day.

Sunday singles:
Thomas Bjorn, CE, def. Lee Westwood, BI, 2&1
Anders Hansen, CE, def. Simon Dyson, BI, 1 hole
Francesco Molinari, CE, def. Jamie Donaldson, BI, 4&3
Alexander Noren, CE, def. Robert Rock, BI, 4&3
Miguel Angel Jimenez, CE, def. Darren Clarke, BI, 4 & 2
Nicolas Colsaerts, CE, halved David Horsey, BI
Scott Jamieson, BI, def, Pablo Larrazabal, CE, 1 hole
Ian Poulter, BI, def. Matteo Manassero, CE, 1 hole
Mark Foster, BI, def. Raphael Jacquelin, CE, 1 hole
Peter Hanson, CE, halved Ross Fisher, BI