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Friday, 19 March 2010
Mercedes-Benz Championship - Round Three  (Getty Images)
Mercedes-Benz Championship - Round Three (Getty Images)

FRIDAY FOURBALL DRAW

Chris Wood and Anthony Wall marked their debuts for Great Britain & Ireland in record-equalling fashion in Paris.

Their six and five defeating of Ryder Cup pair Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson matched the biggest margin of victory in any session of The Vivendi Trophy with Seve Ballesteros since it started in 2000 and helped Paul McGinley's side to a 3-2 lead over Continental Europe after the opening fourballs.

In Karlsson's defence, of course, this was his first competitive action since May because of a blister behind his left retina.

Graeme McDowell teamed up with fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy to beat Dane Søren Kjeldsen and big-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros four and three in the top game.

Great Britain & Ireland's other point came from Oliver Wilson and Simon Dyson. With Dyson fit again after suffering food poisoning in the build-up, they defeated Søren Hansen and Peter Hanson three and two - an exact repeat of the result when they clashed in foursomes in Ireland two years ago.

However, Continental Europe kept the gap down to only one point thanks to Anders Hansen and Francesco Molinari and then Spain's Miguel Angel Jiménez and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño.

Hansen, who had a superb seven birdies in the first 12 holes, and Molinari beat Robert Rock and Steve Webster four and three.

“It worked nicely,” said Hansen. “I did my things and he did his things and we didn't get in each other's way, just sort of tried to support each other as well as we could.”

Fernandez-Castaño and Jiménez - the only player to be an ever-present since the series started in 2000 - came from two down to beat Ross Fisher and Nick Dougherty two and one.

Björn's men were made favourites beforehand at Saint-Nom-la-Bretèche given that they had lost only Sergio Garcia and the injured Martin Kaymer from their strongest possible line-up, but Great Britain & Ireland have won the last four matches.

Wood said: "I wanted to play Stenson at some point. At the start of the week I was on the range and he was giving me a bit of stick and chucking balls at me."

He and Wall turned in a six under 30 and were nine under for the 13 holes played.

Wall commented: "I think I raise my game against really top players. You have something to prove - they are the benchmark.

"They are the favourites and the better team, but we are going to fight all the way. And I don't think Robert was 100 per cent - you've got to feel for him because he's an awesome player.

"I hope he's getting better because Europe need him and The European Tour needs him."

McDowell and McIlroy, the only non-Englishmen in their side, were ahead from the moment the former sank a 25 footer on the first.

They were lucky not to go back on terms at the third, though, as McIlroy's chip was going a long way past until it hit Kjeldsen's ball a few feet past the flag.

"I was amazed he didn't mark it," said the 20 year old, and his partner agreed it was a key point. By the eighth they were three up and McIlroy's birdie on the 11th stretched the gap to four.

"I hope it's the start of a long partnership," he added.

"As long as we stay fit there's no reason why we can't have a partnership for the next ten years."

Both would love to be together again at next October's Ryder Cup, with McDowell stating: "Obviously we're great friends, but this is a chance to show we can gel on the course.

"There's nothing I would like better than to play with him in The Ryder Cup."

Dyson said: "I had nothing but a slice of toast yesterday and only some cornflakes and a banana before I played. I was struggling at the end of it - I could feel my energy levels go drastically - but I'll eat tonight and hopefully feel better still tomorrow."

Wilson birdied the first two holes, while Dyson had four in five holes around the turn.

Jiménez and Fernandez-Castaño turned two down after four into four up after 13. Fisher and Dougherty stayed alive by taking the 15th and 16th, but both were in the trees on the next.

Björn was full of praise for the duo. “In these match play situations, always momentum is important,” he said. “And thank God the experience pulled us back at the end, you know, with Miguel and Gonzo.  They were brilliant.”

Fernandez-Castaño added: “We saw the leaderboard and we saw a lot of red, which is not good. We are two down for a while, but we made a very good come back and it was fun. We knew we had to put those points on the leaderboard, but still, there's a long way to go to Sunday and anything can happen.”

Five more fourballs are played tomorrow, then greensomes and foursomes on Saturday and singles on Sunday. Like The Ryder Cup 28 points are up for grabs.

“We are going to have to play just as well as we did today obviously the next three days if we are going to win this trophy,” warned McGinley after seeing his side establish a narrow lead. “We know how well we are going to have to play to win this trophy.”

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