On the Parisian golf course of Saint-Nom-La-Bretèche yesterday afternoon ended the 8th edition of the tournament established in 2000, that takes its name from the great Severiano Ballesteros, an icon of this sport in the ’80s and ’90s, died prematurely in May 2011.
The tournament presents, slightly changed, the match-play format of the Ryder Cup, with which it also shares the biennail frequency albeit in the odd years: starting on Thursday till Sunday we have witnessed ten matches of fourballs (Thursday and Friday), eight of foursomes (divided between Saturday morning and afternoon) and ten singles, in which Continental Europe led by José María Olazábal (T. Björn, G. Bourdy, N. Colsaerts, G. Fernandez-Castaño, M. Ilonen, M. A. Jiménez, J. Luiten, M. Manassero, F. Molinari, T. Olesen) clashed with insular Europe – Great Britain and Ireland – captained by Sam Torrance (P. Casey, J. Donaldson, S. Gallacher, T. Fleetwood, S. Jamieson, S. Kahn, P. Lawrie, D. Lynn, M. Warren, C. Wood).
The insular team missed some of its big names – Donald , McDowell, McIlroy, Rose, Westwood – not having played enough tournaments valid for qualification to the Seve Trophy (from the Nelson Mandela Championship to the Italian Open): their choice falls this year on the American tour.
During the first day of fourballs, Continental Europe has dominated with three matches won, one lost and one halved: what stood out in this context was the impressive performance of Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño and Nicolas Colsaerts, who beat 5&3 the pair Warren-Jamieson, as well as the negative one of Thomas Björn and Miguel Angel Jiménez, unable to effectively counteract the unstoppable Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher, who with a total of five holes won (three of which in the last nine holes) were awarded the point.
This latter pair, however, was overtaken by Fernandez-Castaño and Colsaerts on Friday with an incredible 6&5. It kept getting worse for Jiménez and Björn, who had to give way under the attacks of the fittest Donaldson and Warren.
No striking result during the third day, that ended with four victories of Great Britain and Ireland, three of Continental Europe and a match halved. The two teams are in perfect equality: 9 to 9.
Sunday: last day on the course.
Simon Kahn’s injury, during the morning practice session, precluded him the possibility of playing the 10th match of the day against Francesco Molinari. At this point, the Trophy’s rules calls for Continental Europe to withdraw one of its players, so to allow the tie of the match that cannot be otherwise deleted: Thomas Björn, already in poor shape, was the volunteer. His opponent, Chris Wood, shifted then against the Italian.
9 1/ 2 to 9 1/2.
One match halved only: a very lackluster Fernandez-Castaño against an equally lackluster Donaldson.
Three wins for Torrance’s team: Fleetwood, Lawrie and an amazing Marc Warren against the young Olesen.
Five points for Continental Europe. If the match between Nicolas Colsaerts and Paul Casey, ending on the last hole, proved to be very balanced, Miguel Angel Jiménez out-matched a David Lynn, down with the flu, at par 4 of the 14th hole with a score of 5 strokes under par (6&4).
It is however Grégory Bourdy, who, playing on his home ground and beating Scott Jamieson 4&3, won the important record for this tournament as first player to win five games out of five.
Let’s get to the Italians.
The good performances and huge improvement in Francesco Molinari’s putt were not enough to bring decisive points to Continental Europe: 1 point and 1/2 out of 5 available in the first three days. Too little if compared to what we have become accustomed to over the years! But our guys haven’t abandoned us: both their singles were successfully concluded at par 3 of the 16th hole. Matteo has holed a perfect putt for his 4th birdie from a prohibitive distance against the very best putter of the tournament, the Scot Gallacher, while Francesco, thanks to a more than risky but perfectly controlled tee-shot, has given himself a wonderful opportunity to win, precisely gained.
As it happened in Medinah last year, a twist of fate wanted Francesco Molinari to have the last match against two players with almost the same name, a certain Tiger Woods and Chris Wood, and both times Chicco did not disappoint the expectations bringing back first the Ryder Cup in Europe, and now Severiano’s trophy on the continent. Once again proof of the great trust put by captain Olazábal in the fiber of the fantastic Italian athlete.
From its 1st edition in 2000, thirteen years ago, Continental Europe hasn’t been able to bring home the prestigious trophy: mission accomplished this year and thanks to the strength of our two Italians.
I wonder if someone from up there lent a hand…