Sunday, 09 November 2003
Great Britain and Ireland retained The Seve Trophy with a 15-13 victory over Continental Europe at Campo de Golf Parador El Saler to the south of Valencia.

Leading 10-8 overnight, Colin Montgomerie’s side needed only four and a half points from the ten singles to triumph and did what they needed to do as the session was shared 5-5, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington having the honour of pushing GB&I over the winning line following his halved match with José Maria Olazábal.

The victory saw GB&I move 2-1 ahead in the overall series, having won the second contest 14 ½ - 11 ½ at Druids Glen in Ireland in 2002, Seve Ballesteros’s team having had the honour of winning the inaugural contest 13 ½ - 12 ½ at Sunningdale Golf Club in England in 2000.

"It has been a great week," said the victorious captain Montgomerie. "Everybody got something out of it, every one of my team contributed at least half a point which is excellent and I couldn't have asked anything more from any of them."

Opposite number Ballesteros agreed. "As Colin said, it has been a great week here," said the Spaniard. "The weather has been fantastic, as has the golf course and the spectators, the only problem we have had is the result. I have already told my players to get practising for next year!"

Needing only four and a half points from the ten singles, the task facing Montgomerie’s men was made easier early on the final day due to the misfortune of Thomas Björn.

The Dane was due to face England’s Paul Casey in match seven, one of the most eagerly anticipated ties of the day, but was forced to withdraw only minutes before he was due to tee off thanks to a troublesome neck injury.

“It is a recurring injury I have now and again and it just popped up at the wrong time,” said Björn. “I am obviously very disappointed for myself and also very disappointed for my team-mates because we felt we got a little bit of momentum going yesterday.

"When I woke up this morning, I felt a little something but I did all the physio stuff I normally do and everything appeared to be okay. But when I went down to hit some balls on the range it just got worse and worse and it got to the stage where there was nothing I could do.”

As in The Ryder Cup Matches, if players are injured more than 30 minutes before games start, then the captain of the unaffected team can nominate a player to take a half - the so-called ‘envelope’ system.

Björn, however, thought he might be okay to play and it was only in his final warm-up that it was decided he was not fit enough to carry on. Because it happened so late, Casey was awarded the match to put the holders 11-8 ahead and requiring only three and half more points for victory.

The first one came quickly thanks to captain Montgomerie who saw off his opposite number Ballesteros by 5 and 4.

In the first two editions of the contest which bears his name, Ballesteros produced the surprise of the singles session with consecutive victories over the Scot and, when he moved two up after seven holes, a hat-trick of victories looked on the cards for the Spaniard.

But twice this week Montgomerie has battled back from behind to gain points for his side and he did so again in spectacular fashion, winning all seven of the holes between the eighth and the 14th to close out the match.

There was some cheer moments later for the home side when host nation favourite Ignacio Garrido beat the 1999 Open Golf Champion Paul Lawrie 3 and 2 to reduce the deficit to 12-9.

Victory did not look likely for the reigning Volvo PGA Champion when he bogeyed the opening two holes to hand the Scot the advantage. But Garrido recovered in fine style, winning the next four holes in a row to turn the match on its head and establish a two hole lead which was never threatened.

The respite was only momentary for Continental Europe however as England’s David Howell notched up his third victory in his four outings with a last green success over Alex Cejka.

The German had been hoping to complete a clean sweep of victories over the four days having won all four of his earlier matches in tandem with Raphaël Jacquelin but, despite being in the lead in the early stages, he could not stop the Englishman mounting a comeback and Howell eventually won by one hole.

Back came Continental Europe however and it was not surprising that it was the player of the tournament, recently crowned Volvo Masters Andalucia champion Fredrik Jacobson, who reduced the leeway to 13-10.

Never behind in the entire contest, Jacobson moved in front crucially for the third time with a birdie three at the 14th before a birdie three at the 17th closed out the 2 and 1 victory to leave the Swede with the impressive tally of four and a half points from his five outings over the week.

The relief was only temporary for Continental Europe however, for, within minutes, the destination of the trophy had been decided thanks to Justin Rose and Harrington.

Firstly Rose, who had always been in control against Jacquelin, raced to a five hole lead by the 13th before the Frenchman mounted a mini-revival, winning the 14th and 15th. However, he could not maintain the momentum and a half in par at the 16th was good enough for the Englishman to win 3 and 2 and move the overall match score to 14-10.

The stage was then set for Harrington, but it looked like the Irishman might not deliver when Olazábal won the 16th to move in front. A half in birdie two at the 17th maintained his advantage before the Irishman came good on the final green, firing a superb approach to three feet and holing for a birdie three which gave him the crucial half point for the GB&I cause.

It left the remaining ties to tidy up the statistics, Ian Poulter claiming the final honours for GB&I with a halved match against Niclas Fasth, while Spaniard’s Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jiménez claimed some personal pride with their first points as well as some respectability to the final scoreline with respective wins over Phillip Price by 4 and 3 and Brian Davis by 2 and 1.

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