Sunday, 30 September 2007

Nick Faldo savoured his first taste of victory as a captain at The Heritage Golf & Spa Resort when his Great Britain and Ireland team stormed to an 8-2 singles success and an overall 16 ½ - 11 ½ victory in the Seve Trophy.

By leading GB & I to their fourth win out of five editions of the match, Faldo relished the experience and the final result at Killenard in Ireland – something he would dearly love to repeat in 12 months time when he guides Europe into The Ryder Cup clash with the United States.

Faldo was a contented onlooker on a gloriously sunny autumn day as his players responded to his urgings. England’s Oliver Wilson was the solitary GB  & I loser in the singles, going down on the last green to Sweden’s Peter Hanson.

Søren Hansen and Markus Brier contributed half points against Nick Dougherty and Phillip Archer respectively, but otherwise it was a crushing disappointment for Continental captain Seve Ballesteros.

Trailing 8 ½ - 9 ½ going into the final day, GB & I signalled their intentions immediately – especially at the front end of the singles draw where Colin Montgomerie, Paul Casey and marc Warren were all incensed to hear of their prospects being written off on television the night before.

Using that perceived slight as a motivation tool, Montgomerie promptly despatched the in-form Robert Karrlson on the last green, Casey recorded a 3 and 2 win over Raphaël Jacquelin while Marc Warren beat another Frenchman, Gregory Havret, by one hole.

Suddenly, a deficit had become a healthy lead which continued to grow in size as Graeme Storm claimed the biggest win of the day, a 6 and 5 success over Thomas Björn, who recovered from a stomach upset on Saturday to take part.

Simon Dyson – like Warren, a wild card pick from Faldo – came through with a 2 and 1 win over Mikko Ilonen, Bradley Dredge beat Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño by two holes and Justin Rose, placed in the role of ‘tail gunner’ edged out the experienced Miguel Angel Jiménez 2 and 1.

At the end of stirring day’s golf, which brought the crowds flocking to Co. Laois, Archer enjoyed the privilege of claiming the half point which secured the victory while Dredge finished the week as the top points scorer on either side with 4 ½ out of 5.

Faldo, ever the competitor, revelled in the atmosphere and commented: “I thought it was a great week. All 20 players did their bit and I was delighted with my team. They obviously wanted to win and came through. I don’t know what inspired them but everybody did his bit.”

The GB & I skipper was pleased that every member of his team contributed to the cause and that both his wild cards produced the goods. He added: “They both had a great week. Simon Dyson was a real bubbly, bouncing character and Marc Warren did a great job today. I thought they were both impressive.”

Ballesteros has not wrapped his hands around the trophy which carries his name since 2000, but he said: “That’s the way it goes sometimes in sport. The GB & I team played great golf. My team did as well, but maybe they were a little bit better than us today. They had a little more luck, and that makes the difference. We just had a bad day. It happens from time to time, just as it does in football. “

The Spaniard is sure of one thing – that Faldo has the capacity to help Europe to a record fourth successive Ryder Cup victory in Kentucky next September. “I’ve said that a few times already. He will be fantastic, I’m sure” he remarked.

As for Faldo, the ‘getting to know you’ element of the week has been especially pleasing and he observed; “The whole experience has been really, really worth doing. I’ve taken everything on board and made a few little notes and I think it’s been great.”

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