Continental Europe, led by Seve Ballesteros, will seek to retain The Seve Trophy against the team from Great Britain and Ireland as the second edition of the exciting matchplay event unfolds at Druids Glen, Co Wicklow, this week.
The inaugural competition held two years ago at Sunningdale, was an unqualified success with Continental Europe defeating the Great Britain and Ireland team by the narrowest of margins, 13 ½ - 12 ½. Fittingly, Ballesteros, after whom the trophy is named and whose vision inspired the concept of the event, led his team to victory with an inspirational singles triumph over the Great Britain and Ireland Captain, Colin Montgomerie.
Ballesteros and Montgomerie return as captains of the ten man teams for the 2.4 million euro event. A total of 26 points will be at stake through a series of foursomes, fourballs, greensomes and singles, with each member of the winning team receiving 150,000 euro and the runners-up 90,000 euro.
Both teams will contain four rookies including Scotland's Andrew Oldcorn, who received a late call up to the Great Britian and Ireland team after injury necessitated the withdrawal of David Howell.
The 26 year old Englishman had qualified automatically for Montgomerie's side, finishing in sixth place on the Rankings, but he cracked a bone in his left arm after a fall which rendered him unable to compete.
Howell said: "Obviously I am bitterly disappointed to miss The Seve Trophy after trying to qualify for a year. However, you soon realise that getting back to full fitness is of much greater importance. I wish Great Britain and Ireland the very best of luck in trying to win back the trophy."
Oldcorn, the reigning Volvo PGA Champion, was involved in a tussle with Steve Webster for the final automatic place which went down to the wire in the final counting event, the Madeira Island Open, three weeks ago.
Oldcorn said: "Obviously on a personal level I'm delighted because I had tried hard to make the team automatically before just missing out, but I am very disappointed for David. If there is one person I wouldn't have wished this on it is him because he is a good friend.
"Having said that, the same thing happened to me last season when I had to pull out of the WGC-EMC² World Cup with injury and Dean Robertson took my place, so I know exactly how David is feeling right now.
"I'm looking forward to being part of the Great Britain and Ireland team and also being part of what should be a great week's golf."
Oldcorn will join Paul Casey, Paul McGinley and Webster in making their first appearance in the team alongside a formidable Great Britain and Ireland line-up of Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie, Montgomerie, Lee Westwood and Ian Woosnam.
Westwood, selected by Montgomerie as his wild card selection, was the leading points scorer two years ago with four points out of five.
The Continental team is equally impressive with experienced campaigners Ballesteros, Thomas Björn, Alex Cejka, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Robert Karlsson and José Maria Olazábal being joined by newcomers Niclas Fasth, Mathias Grönberg, Raphaël Jacquelin and Thomas Levet.
The event will be played on the 7,041 yard Druids Glen course that has already staged the Murphy's Irish Open on four occasions, with Montgomerie winning there twice.
Druids Glen, which opened five years ago, is one of the finest parkland courses in Europe. Course designers Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock used the existing rugged and varied landscape to produce a magnificent course which will offer a worthy challenge to the top class players in attendance.