Continental Europe won the inaugural Eurobet Seve Ballesteros Trophy at Sunningdale Golf Club after a titanic struggle with Great Britain and Ireland.
Ballesteros, after whom the trophy was named – and whose vision inspired the concept of this superb new event – rolled back the years with a marvellous singles victory over his rival captain, Colin Montgomerie, to lead his team to victory by the minimum margin of 13 ½- 12 ½. Remarkably, it had taken only three days to establish a tradition.
Ballesteros was driven by his love of the Ryder Cup to launch the tournament in England, the country where his exploits were most appreciated, and it seemed entirely appropriate that the great man’s exploits on the course on the final day held the key to Continental Europe capturing the trophy.
The Spaniard led from the front by beating Europe’s seven-time No.1, Montgomerie, 2 and 1 in the top single after the teams had gone into the last session with the match delicately poised at 8-8 after some outstanding golf on Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning.
Ballesteros delivered the first point of the afternoon, against all the odds and the form guide, while it was equally appropriate that the player who, in tandem with Seve, became the greatest partnership in Ryder Cup history, José Maria Olazábal, secured the winning point with a 2 and 1 win over Gary Orr.
The weather may have been foul on Saturday, but the crowds flocked in huge numbers to Sunningdale. The course coped admirably with the adverse conditions and those present were rewarded with golf of a standard the European Tour could scarcely have imagined a quarter of a century ago.
Ballesteros clutched the trophy bearing his name and his clenched-fist image and admitted: “I have had great moments in my career and this is one of the best. I thought both teams showed tremendous sportsmanship and professionalism. This is how golf should be played.
“The quality of the golf was fantastic. I knew we had the top 20 players in Europe at Sunningdale, but I have to say it seemed like the top 20 in the world. I hope this tournament will stay for a long, long time.”
Montgomerie, who played in all five matches and proved to be a superb captain as well, was gracious in defeat. He commented: “It was Seve’s vision which started this tournament and it is, above all else, a celebration of European golf. We’ve had big crowds, fantastic support for both teams and it was a joy to see.”
If the Ryder Cup has been a tight contest for almost two decades, then so was this wonderful event. The first day ended in a 4-4 tie, the second at 6-6 and the Sunday greensomes at 8-8. No-one could have dared believe that this new format could supply such a dramatic climax. Thanks to Ballesteros, it did.
The tiger lurking within the Spaniard emerged to defeat Montgomerie, while Sergio Garcia’a birdie, birdie finish to wrest a half from Darren Clarke was almost as significant. Olazabal’s match-winning point simply put the seal on three days of the most compelling drama.
Olazabal said: “I would like to congratulate every member of the team and especially the players involved for the first time in this type of format. I also want to congratulate Seve. He did a wonderful job. Nobody would have put a penny on him today but he is made of different material.”
The tone of the week was summed up succintly by Bernhard Langer, veteran of many Ryder Cup wins and defeats. He said: “I think it’s a wonderful competition. It’s a fantastic way to play golf. It speaks volumes for the foresight of Seve to start this tournament.
“Seve did a great job and I just want to say how much I enjoyed the camaraderie and friendship among our team and how close you can get to guys. I really believe this is going to take off in a similar way to the Ryder Cup.”Match Summary