Only one point separates Continental Europe from Great Britain and Ireland going into the final day of the Seve Trophy after two closely contested sessions at The Heritage Golf & Spa Resort in Killenard, Ireland.
Seve Ballesteros’s side lead Nick Faldo’s GB & I team 9 ½ - 8 ½ with the last series of ten singles matches to be played. At one stage after the morning greensomes, it appeared the the Continentals had secured a cosy three point advantage, taking the series 3 ½ - 1/2 .
However Faldo’s side bared its fangs in the afternoon foursomes, winning 3-1 to reduce the deficit to a solitary point in favour of the Continentals, who are bidding to regain the trophy for the first time since 2000.
Ballesteros commented: “I am happy to be a point ahead, but on the other hand after the morning matches I felt we would be further in front. Perhaps three points ahead. Anything can happen, but it’s been a great day with fantastic golf and I think everyone enjoyed it.”
Faldo, relishing his first experience of captaincy ahead of next year’s Ryder Cup, was delighted with his side’s spirited reply in the afternoon when the loss of another session could have scuppered their chances of a fourth consecutive win in the contest.
He said: “There was a big turnaround in the morning and it was important that we managed to get a half. Then in the afternoon we managed to turn it around again in our favour. It was a key moment when Justin Rose chipped in on 16 in his game, which he and Nick Dougherty won.
“I agree with Seve. The quality of the golf has been great and the focus of the players has been really good. I mean, the guys are really into it. I want to win this week because I’m a competitor. They are all fierce competitors with a lot of pride and prize money to play for. For me, the experience has been essential this week.”
The quality of golf was sensational in the morning greensomes, with the French pair of Raphaël Jacquelin and Gregory Havret maintaining their 100 record with Havret contributing his first official hole in one, a four iron at the seventh en route to a 2 and 1 win over Dougherty and Graeme Storm.
However the French pair came unstuck in the afternoon as Rose and Dougherty won by the same score to start the GB & I revival.
Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño had an unexpectedly productive day, with two point out of two to his name. He was wakened by Ballesteros at 6am with the news that Thomas Björn had a stomach upset and would not be able to partner Robert Karlsson.
He stepped happily into the breach and the pair beat Justin Rose and Paul Casey in the top greensome then were reunited to overcome Colin Montgomerie and Graeme Storm in the afternoon foursome.
The unbeaten Bradley Dredge and Phillip Archer saw a two hole lead evaporate in the morning, when Markus Brier’s 30 foot birdie putt on the last helped the Austrian and Mikko Ilonen an unexpected half.
However the same pairing went out and played another 18 holes in the afternoon, and this time they held on to exact revenge over Brier and Miguel Angel Jiménez on the final green.