Seve Ballesteros is once again at the helm in Spain this week, looking to draw inspiration from the 1997 Ryder Cup triumph, as he captains the Continental Europe team against the Great Britain and Ireland team, led by Colin Montgomerie, in the third Seve Trophy.
Six years ago, when The Ryder Cup moved to Continental Europe for the first time with the Matches played at Club de Golf Valderrama, Ballesteros led Europe to a 14 ½ - 13 ½ victory over the United States.
The Spaniard will be drawing on all the experience gleaned from that contest as he seeks to regain the trophy which bears his name at Campo de Golf Parador El Saler, Valencia, from November 6-9.
This is the first time The Seve Trophy has been played in Spain and honours are even after the first two editions, Continental Europe claiming the inaugural event at Sunningdale, England, in 2000 by 13 ½ - 12 ½ before Great Britain and Ireland won the trophy two years later at Druids Glen in Ireland by 14 ½ - 11 ½.
Qualification for The Seve Trophy changed for 2003 with a new system similar to that adopted for The 2004 Ryder Cup Matches with, in addition to the two captains, four players from the Official World Golf Ranking, four more from the Volvo Order of Merit and one wild card selection by each captain.
Qualification began with the BMW Asian Open last November and was finalised at the conclusion of the Telefonica Open de Madrid last month.
On the Continental Europe side, Thomas Björn, Alex Cejka, Sergio Garcia and newly crowned Volvo Masters Andalucia champion Fredrik Jacobson qualified through the Official World Golf Ranking, with Niclas Fasth, Ignacio Garrido, Raphaël Jacquelin and Miguel Angel Jiménez earning their place through the Volvo Order of Merit. Garrido and Jacobson will be making their debuts.
Ballesteros plumped for experience with his wild card selection, choosing compatriot and former Ryder Cup partner José Maria Olazábal to complete his line-up, bringing the total number of Spaniards in the home side to five.
“I chose Olazábal because he is a great champion and has experience of match play from all his past Ryder Cups and two Seve Trophy matches,” said Ballesteros. “I am very proud to have five Spaniards in the team, all of whom will be a big draw for the Spanish public, as will the other five outstanding champions in our team.”
Paul Casey, Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose qualified for the Great Britain and Ireland team through the Official World Golf Ranking with Brian Davis, David Howell, Phillip Price and Lee Westwood qualifying through the Volvo Order of Merit.
Howell was a late inclusion, the 28 year old Englishman taking the place of Irishman Darren Clarke, who originally qualified for the team through the Official World Golf Ranking, but who withdrew after confirming his participation in this week’s Tour Championship on the US PGA Tour.
Davis, Poulter and Rose will be making their debuts in the event, while Montgomerie completed his line-up with the selection of fellow Scot, Paul Lawrie as his wild card.
“I am delighted to have the option to pick a Major winner and a Ryder Cup player to strengthen an already strong team,” said Montgomerie. We, as a team, look forward to defending The Seve Trophy on Spanish soil.”
Campo de Golf Parador El Saler Valencia is ranked among the leading courses in Europe and has hosted the Spanish Open on three occasions - 1984, 1989 and 2001 – a good omen for the home side this week as all three were won by Continental European players, Bernhard Langer in 1984 and 1989 and Robert Karlsson in 2001.
The format of the contest itself this year has also been altered and will see five fourball matches on both Thursday November 6 and Friday November 7, four greensome matches followed by four foursome matches on Saturday November 8, and ten singles on Sunday November 9, the winners needing to attain 14 1/2 points.