Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Miguel Angel Jimenez   (Getty Images)
Miguel Angel Jimenez (Getty Images)

Miguel Angel Jiménez will have the honour of hitting the first tee shot when the Vivendi Seve Trophy begins on Thursday, in honour of his friend and fellow Spaniard, the late Seve Ballesteros.

Paul McGinley, the Great Britain and Ireland captain, relinquished his rights on behalf of the visiting team to take the honour in the opening session, allowing Jiménez to honour Ballesteros, who instigated the contest in 2000, by hitting the first ball for Continental Europe at St-Nom-La-Bretèche in Paris.

Continental Europe captain Jean Van de Velde has paired Jiménez with his compatriot Pablo Larrazabal, and they will take on Englishman Simon Dyson and Welshman Jamie Donaldson in the opening fourballs.

Swede Peter Hanson is paired with Frenchman Raphaël Jacquelin against Ross Fisher of England and Scottish rookie Scott Jamieson, while Anders Hansen of Denmark and Italy’s Francesco Molinari will face English duo Lee Westwood and Mark Foster.

Italian teenager Matteo Manassero, the youngest player in the contest’s history at 18 years and 152 days, is with Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts to take on Open Champion Darren Clarke and David Horsey of England.

Last out are in-form Dane Thomas Björn, who recently won back-to-back European Tour titles, and Sweden’s Alex Noren against Englishmen Robert Rock and Ian Poulter.

Van de Velde said: “Seve is the reason this tournament exists and after his passing away a few months ago, I and everybody felt that paying a tribute to the man would be something very important.

“He was one of the players, if not the player in my heart, who made The European Tour or at least launched The European Tour from where it was to where it is now.  So we decided there would be a Spaniard hitting the first shot of the tournament, and who better than his good friend, Miguel Ángel Jiménez.  So I asked Miguel if he would be happy with that, and obviously he's thrilled with it.”

McGinley added: “It was Jean's idea, and a very good idea, and I was very happy to roll in behind it.”

The Irishman added  about his own pairings selection: “I decided on the first day it was important that the rookies on the team all have experienced players with them, and I thought it was important that I got off on a foot where I had those guys with some experience.

“So that's obviously what I've done on the first day, why I broke Lee and Darren up. I've put all the younger guys with experience.

“Simon Dyson has won two tournaments in the last couple of months; I put Jamie Donaldson with him with that kind of experience.  Ross Fisher has played a couple of Ryder Cups and Seve Trophies; I put Scott Jamieson with him. 

“I'm very much aware of how formidable this European Team is. It's probably the strongest team they have ever produced, and we are very much aware of that.  So we are under no illusions, no illusions whatsoever that we are going to have to play extremely well if we want to win this week.”

Van de Velde admitted he sees McGinley, who captained GB &I to victory two years ago as a fine example of a team skipper, saying: “I looked at what he's done.  I tried to find a link to the way he was thinking, at least two years ago, and he also said that he learned pretty much everything from Sam Torrance, so I had a look in the archives and pulled out some information. 

“And I studied thoroughly what everybody has done for the last month and a half. But all of that is on paper.

“Paul is very experienced and he listens to experienced players.  I tend to listen to everybody; I know nothing out there.  So I try to discover the language as I go along.  I try to communicate a lot, try to have the maximum feedback that I can have, try to expose my idea to every single player there is out there, get their feelings back, and from there we move forward.”  

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