Thursday, 15 September 2011
Paul McGinley  (Getty Images)
Paul McGinley (Getty Images)
Great Britain & Ireland dominated the opening day of the Vivendi Seve trophy as Paul McGinley’s side established a 4-1 advantage after the opening fourballs at St-Nom-La-Bretèche.

Continental Europe started the week as the bookies’ favourites to regain the trophy for the first time since 2000 – Great Britain & Ireland have won the last five contests - but Jean Van De Velde’s side will need to produce a strong fightback if they are to lift the trophy on Sunday.

“It's important to pace ourselves,” said McGinley. “We have had a great start - a brilliant start - but there's a long, long way to go, a lot of points to be played for yet. 

“It's a very, very strong European Team and we certainly will not be underestimating them.  We played really good golf today, but if we are going to win this, we have to keep on playing to that standard because they are going to come back, there's nothing surer than that.”

Ross Fisher and rookie Scott Jamieson led the way for Great Britain & Ireland, beating Swede Peter Hanson and Frenchman Raphaël Jacquelin 6 and 4.

Last week’s KLM Open champion Simon Dyson partnered Welshman Jamie Donaldson to a 2 and 1 victory in the top game against Spanish pair Miguel Angel Jiménez and Pablo Larrazabal.

Robert Rock holed a string of putts as he partnered Ian Poulter to a 5 and 3 win in the last game out, before Francesco Molinari held his nerve on the final green.

The Italian was one up with Anders Hansen coming down the last, butt Lee Westwood holed a 20 foot putt which looked to have salvaged a half for the World Number Two and Mark Foster.

But the Ryder Cup star converted an eight footer before Darren Clarke and David Horsey held on for a one up victory over rookie pairing Nicolas Colsaerts and Matteo Manassero.

Former Volvo World Match Play champion Fisher again demonstrated his liking of the format with two birdies in the first four holes and a winning par at the fifth.

That run, allied with Jamieson’s birdie at the par three third after a tee shot to six feet, put the pair three up.

Jacquelin birdied the second from five feet and won the sixth with a par to remain in contention, but Fisher and Jamieson birdied four out of five holes from the tenth to seal victory. 

Donaldson birdied the first two to go two up with Dyson before Jiménez - given the honour of hitting the opening shot in memory of his friend Ballesteros – birdied the fourth.

And his compatriot Larrazabal splashed out to three feet to make it all square with a birdie at the par five seventh.

But Dyson’s first birdie at the eighth gave the initiative back to Great Britain & Ireland, who sealed victory when the impressive Donaldson birdied the 16th and 17th.

“We played really well and gelled really well,” said Donaldson. “When it wasn't Dys birdieing it was me birdieing - we gelled perfectly in the end. 

“Like Dys said we were very tough to beat. I think we were nine under better ball for no drops for the holes we played.” 

Westwood showed his class with a tee shot to five feet at the third and three wood to six feet at the seventh which set up an eagle.

Hansen, who holed a bunker shot on the fourth only for Westwood to sink a 20 foot putt to halve the hole, birdied the sixth and tenth.

Molinari won the 15th with a birdie and The Ryder Cup star remained composed to match Westwood’s closing birdie to at least give Continental Europe some blue on the board.

Like Donaldson before him, Horsey began with consecutive birdies to give McGinley’s side an early edge in game four.

Colsaerts responded with birdies at the fifth and eighth, but he and Manassero were two down with five to play as Clarke won the sixth and 12th with birdies – the latter from 20 feet.

Big-hitting Colsaerts pulled a shot back at the 14th but Horsey’s birdie at the 17th put the Great Britain & Ireland pair dormie two and although Colsaerts won the 17th there was to be no recovery.

Rock was in sensational form with six birdies in 15 holes, although it was Poulter who confirmed the win in game five when he birdied the par five 15th.

“I seemed to find a bit of rhythm with the putter after a few holes, and we got around nicely,” said Rock.

Poulter added: “It's always nice to play a match play format, the team environment is great. It was great to play with Rocky today - we got off to a nice start, and saw the lines on the greens fairly early. 

“Rocky holed a couple of lovely putts, and we both dovetailed pretty nicely for the whole day.”

Van De Velde paid tribute to Great Britain & Ireland’s putting, but insists there is plenty to play for in Friday’s fourballs.

And he could well be right – Continental Europe led 4-1 after the opening day in 2005 and lost 16 1/2-11 ½. 

“I didn't see too many missed putts by them to be frankly honest,” he said. “They seemed to find the groove. 

“At the end of the day, you can only ask the guy to do their best and try to play their best. There is no doubt that from looking at those numbers, they are going to have to raise their level of play or, equally, maybe Great Britain and Ireland can lower it down a little bit. I would really like that actually!”

McGinley has stuck with the same five pairings for Friday – Dyson and Donaldson face Björn and Jacquelin in game one, before Rock and Poulter take on Swedish pair Hanson and Noren.

Jamieson and Fisher will face Colsaerts and Manassero, Foster and Westwood have a chance for revenge over Hansen and Molinari and Clarke and Horsey will face Larrazabal and Jiménez.

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