Seve Ballesteros and José Maria Olazábal, the most successful partnership in Ryder Cup history, rolled back the years with a vintage display in The Seve Trophy to defeat Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley and earn a solitary point for Continental Europe during the Saturday morning fourball matches at Druids Glen.
Despite the Spanish heroics, Great Britain and Ireland forged ahead, taking the fourball series 3-1 to extend their lead to 8-4 as they seek to wrestle the Seve Trophy from the Continental European team.
Ballesteros, whose vision inspired the concept of this team event, sat out the first day’s play but paired himself with his old partner against the unbeaten Irish duo of Harrington and McGinley. What unfolded was classic matchplay.
The match swung back and fourth over the front nine as they turned all square. The Spaniards edged ahead on the tenth through an Olazábal birdie but the real drama was still to come.
On the 13th Ballesteros carved his drive into a creek, took a penalty drop, then off a hanging lie chased a three wood onto the green and holed an outrageous 40 foot par saving putt for a vital half. The Captain then birdied the 14th to move two up. The next two holes were halved in birdies, putting the Spaniards two up with two to play.
But Ballesteros has saved his best till last, conjuring up a shot of pure magic as he has done so often in the past to settle the match. While Harrington had hit his tee shot to three feet, Ballesteros found the bunker on the right but from there holed his 60 foot bunker shot for a birdie two and a 2 and 1 victory. In a fitting gesture, Olazábal dropped to his knees to applaud a wonderful shot.
“It was a memorable day for both of us, playing together again and shooting six under par for the back nine” said Ballesteros. “Playing with Chema there is always the guarantee he is going to play well. It was a fantasic way to finish a special match.”
“It was a special day for both of us – just like the old days,” added Olazábal. “He made a great four on the 13th, a great three on the 15th and then I took over on the 16th. And then it was really special for me, to watch him chip in from the bunker at the 17th was amazing and you don’t get many days like that. Padraig had hit a wonderful shot in and we were just hoping to make three – but Seve did what he’s done so often in the past and I had to get down on my knees to applaud that shot. That’s Seve!”
“It was vintage Seve and Olly,” said McGinley afterwards. “They had five putts in eight holes on the back nine. What can you do against that? They were just awesome. Seve holed a crucial putt on the 13th to stay one up and then they birdied the next four holes. It was just vintage Seve.”
Harrington added: “That’s matchplay. Classic matchplay. Seve’s shot to finish was unbelievable.”
But elsewhere the match swing very much in favour of Great Britain and Ireland. Paul Casey and Paul Lawrie beat Thomas Björn and Niclas Fasth 2 and 1 in the top match, edgeing ahead with birdies at the 14th and 15th in a thrilling contest.
Ian Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie were unstoppable against Robert Karlsson and Mathias Grönberg as they rolled in six birdies on their way to a 4 and 3 win.
And in the final group Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood won a titanic tussle on the last green against Miguel Angel Jiménez and Raphael Jacquelin. The Spaniard had levelled the match by chipping in on the 17th but Clarke rose to the challenge with two colossal shots on the final hole, arguably the toughest on the course. A towering three iron second shot finished some ten feet from the pin and two putts were enough to secure victory and take the Great Britain and Ireland team into a commanding four point lead.