Continental Europe, captained for the first time by José Maria Olazábal, will attempt to repel Great Britain and Ireland’s bid for a third successive Seve Trophy success when the biennial match visits the North East of England for the first time at The Wynyard Club in the Tees Valley.
With injury preventing Seve Ballesteros from leading his side for a fourth time, the dashing Spaniard will rely on his long-time Ryder Cup cohort, Olazábal, to break the sequence. In Olazábal’s favour is the fact that Continental Europe recorded their sole victory in the inaugural match, also on English soil, in 2000.
Olazábal said: “I am very proud to be captain of the Continental Europe team to play in this year’s Seve Trophy. I have always really enjoyed playing in The Ryder Cup format of the Seve Trophy and hope to play a big part in winning back the trophy.”
Ballesteros, after captaining his side for the past three editions, decided to step aside in favour of Olazábal during this year’s Open Championship at St Andrews. He will now take on a new role as Tournament Host and commented: “I am very sad that injuries prevent me from playing in the Seve Trophy this year. I had hoped to square the series of singles matches against Colin Montgomerie, but it was not to be.
“However, I look forward to taking part in the opening ceremony and presenting the trophy to the winning team. I can’t think of a better leader of the Continental Europe team than my friend José Maria. I believe he will prove a great captain during what is always an exciting and competitive contest between Europe’s top players.”
There will be nine rookies competing in the match, four on the GB & I side and five on the Continental team. Stephen Dodd and Bradley Dredge of Wales enjoy the rewards of an outstanding season while England’s Nick Dougherty and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell also make their debuts. Making up the team of ten are automatic qualifiers Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley of Ireland and the English pair of David Howell and Ian Poulter.
Continental Europe bring in newcomers Emanuele Canonica of Italy, Sweden’s Peter Hanson and Henrik Stenson, Maarten Lafeber of The Netherlands and Frenchman Jean-Francois Remesy. They are joined by Thomas Björn of Denmark, Sweden’s Niclas Fasth and Miguel Angel Jiménez of Spain.
Paul Casey and Thomas Levet, two of the heroes of Europe’s record breaking 2004 Ryder Cup victory, are the two captains’ wild cards to complete the teams. Englishman Casey was selected by captain Colin Montgomerie as he finalised his team to defend the trophy they won two years ago in Valencia while Frenchman Levet, another of the rookies from the 2004 European Ryder Cup Team, was chosen by Olazábal in his quest to level the series.
Olazábal has been a member of the Continental Europe team in each of the previous three contests – in the victorious team at Sunningdale in 2000, as well as the losing teams at Druids Glen in 2002 and Valencia in 2003. His current record in the event stands at: played 14, won 5, halved 3 and lost 6 for a total of 6 ½ points.
Of those taking part this week, Olazábal is joint leading points scorer on the Continental side alongside fellow Spaniard Jiménez, followed by Björn on five points.
For GB & I, Ireland’s Harrington is the leading scorer with nine points from 14 games while skipper Montgomerie has seven points from 15 matches – the most played by anyone in the short history of the Seve Trophy.