Ireland’s Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley drew inspiration from playing in front of enthusiastic home support to spearhead Great Britain and Ireland’s first victory in The Seve Trophy at Druids Glen, Co Wicklow.
The two Dubliners, playing just a short drive from their native city, finished joint top scorers with four points out of five as GB & I defeated Continental Europe by 14 ½ - 11 ½ and it was entirely fitting that the rock solid Harrington secured the winning point.
The Ryder Cup players, World Cup winners in 1997, were in outstanding form all week and only the genius of Seve Ballesteros and José Maria Olazábal in the Saturday morning fourball matches denied them a clean sweep in all five matches.
The victorious GB & I Captain, Colin Montgomrie, said: “This has been very much a team effort. Obviously there is personal pride involved within the team, but overall we needed 13 ½ points and we got that in the end. It was a harder battle than we thought and the European team actually won the singles, the only series they won. But at the same time we had enough of a lead to cope and I thank all the team members who came through.
“Everybody got at least a point and that’s very much a team effort. To Padriag and Paul – a terrific performance to get four points out of five, with the pressure on them, a terrific performance.”
Ballesteros was gracious in defeat when he said: “We needed seven matches to get into a play-off and at one point it was looking very close to doing that. But unfortunately things switch around a little bit on the back nine and they won. I would like to say thank you to every member of my team for the tremendous effort and the tremendous display they put on this week. It was not easy under the conditions. Every one played very well and we tried our best. I guess the British and Irish team played a little bit better and perhaps they were a little bit more lucky.”
GB & I finished the first day 5-3 ahead and repeated that scoreline on the second day to build a 10-6 advantage but Continental Europe launched a spirited fightback on the final day.
In the opening game, Ballesteros once again proved he is one of the greatest ever exponents of matchplay with a marvellous singles victory over rival captain Colin Montgomerie on the final green.
Darren Clarke registered the first point of the day for the GB & I team with a commanding 4 and 3 victory over his Ryder Cup teammate Thomas Björn but the next two matches went to Continental Europe. First Miguel Angel Jiménez defeated Paul Casey 4 and 3 and then Robert Karlsson edged the 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie on the home green to take the scores to 11-9.
McGinley put the GB & I team back on track by beating Mathias Grönberg 4 and 3 and when Westwood beat Raphael Jacquelin 3 and 2, Great Britain and Ireland had reached the magic 13 point mark and could not lose.
Alex Cejka beat Ian Woosnam 5 and 4 to take the European points tally to ten but moments later Harrington secured the winning point for GB & I by beating Olazábal 3 and 2.
Andrew Oldcorn and Niclas Fasth halved their match, leaving Oldcorn the only player on the winning team to be undefeated. The Scot received a late call up to the team following David Howell’s withdrawal due to injury and rose to the occasion magnificently. Montgomorie was unstinting in his praise of Oldcorn when he said: “We only had one player unbeaten here and that was Andrew Olcorn who stood in at the last minute. Out thanks to him and full credit to him.”
In the final game Thomas Levet and Steve Webster enjoyed a rollercoaster match until the Frenchman closed the match 2 and 1. Continental Europe won the singles series 5 ½ to 4 ½ but it was the GB & I team who were celebrating a thrilling 14 ½ - 11 ½ victory.