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Friday, 16 September 2011
Jean Van de Velde  (Getty Images)
Jean Van de Velde (Getty Images)

Continental Europe mounted a storming comeback on day two to reduce Great Britain & Ireland’s lead to one point and set up a thrilling weekend at the Vivendi Seve Trophy.

Captain Jean Van De Velde made changes to two of his pairings, and Swedes Alex Noren and Peter Hanson proved an inspired combination as they romped to a 5 and 3 victory over Ian Poulter and Robert Rock.

The Continental Europeans have lost the last five stagings – their only win coming in the inaugural event in 2000 – but Great Britain & Ireland Captain Paul McGinley had warned his troops that their 4-1 first day advantage had far from ended the contest.

And so it proved, as Thomas Björn and Raphaël Jacquelin fought back from three down to snatch a half from Simon Dyson and Jamie Donaldson in the top game.

Thursday’s biggest winners Ross Fisher and Scott Jamieson were brought back down to earth as rookies Nicolas Colsaerts and Matteo Manassero ran out 2 up winners – the Italian teenager back to his best after a difficult first day. 

The bright spot for McGinley came in game four, where World Number Two Lee Westwood produced a masterclass to run out a 5 and 3 winner with Mark Foster over Anders Hansen and Francesco Molinari, the English pair gaining revenge for their opening day defeat.

But in the final game Spaniards Pablo Larrazabal and Miguel Angel Jiménez restored Continental Europe’s momentum with a 3 and 2 victory over Open Champion Darren Clarke and David Horsey.

That left the tie finely poised at 5 ½-4 ½ in Great Britain & Ireland’s favour ahead of Saturday’s four morning greensomes matches and four afternoon fourballs.

“It was a good reaction from them,” Van de Velde said of his players. “I'm very happy with what I've seen, and the result did follow, as well.

“The intensity was there, the commitment was there. None of the players were not on their game, and that's what I'm very happy with and very proud of.” 

Hanson and Noren, who both lost their fourballs on Thursday with different partners, stormed four up after five holes against Poulter and Rock.

Rock and Hanson both birdied the first, but Noren won the second with a birdie before Hanson took the par three third with a two.

Noren won the next two with pars, although Rock’s birdie at the sixth reduced the deficit to three.

But Noren, twice a winner on The European Tour this year, followed a birdie at the 14th with an eagle at the 15th to seal the match.

“We both played well today,” said Noren. “Peter holed so many putts and he made a lot of birdies and he didn't have to putt sometimes. 

“And then I made a couple of birdies and he just kept on going. In the end, I think both of us played well.”

In the top game Dyson and Donaldson looked on course for a second victory together, the Welshman birdieing the fifth and sixth to put them two up on Björn and Jacquelin.

But the Frenchman’s birdie at the 15th squared the contest and with Donaldson and Björn cancelling out each other’s birdies at the next both sides had to settle for a half.

Manassero won two of the first three holes to go one up with Colsaerts against the opening day’s biggest winners Ross Fisher and Scott Jamieson.

Colsaerts won the sixth to go two up and looked like extending that lead further when the big-hitting Belgian birdied the eighth from 30 feet.

But rookie Jamieson chipped in to halve the hole and keep Great Britain & Ireland within touching distance.

Manassero won the ninth with a par, before Fisher closed the gap to one on the back nine with consecutive birdies at the 13th and 14th.

Fittingly it was the Italian who had the final word with a birdie at the last to confirm victory.

“I felt better today,” said Manassero, who replaced Sergio Garcia as the event’s youngest ever player.

“It was good to have that experience because it helps you when you go one course another time.  That's really important and we knew much better what to do today.” 

Continental Europe’s only first-day point came from Molinari and Hansen but their fortunes were reversed as Westwood demonstrated the sort of quality that took him to Number One in the Official World Golf Ranking.

He played a remarkable approach on the eighth. Having hit his drive under a tree with low hanging branches, he played the sort of shot Ballesteros himself would have been proud of to run the ball up onto the green and within six feet of the flag.

The resulting birdie put him and Foster one up, and Westwood doubled the advantage with a ten foot birdie putt at the next.

Foster won the 13th with a birdie but it was Westwood who secured the win with a birdie at the 14th and eagle at the next.

“It's nice when the more established players play well, it takes the pressure off the rookies,” said Westwood. “That's why you pair them together.” 

The bottom game swung Continental Europe’s way when Jiménez won the seventh with a birdie four, and it was the veteran who ended the contest when he birdied the 16th from five feet after a magnificent tee shot.

Dyson and Donaldson retain their place at the top of the order for Great Britain & Ireland in the morning greensomes against Colsaerts and Manassero, with Hanson and Noren out second again against Horsey and Clarke.

McGinley has paired Ryder Cup stars Fisher and Poulter together in game three against Björn and Jacquelin, with Westwood partnering Jamieson as Jiménez and Larrazabal take the anchor role for Continental Europe again.

That means Foster and Rock sit out for Great Britain & Ireland while Van De Velde has decided to rest Hansen and Molinari.

“Today was the result they would have wanted, not the one I would have wanted,” said McGinley.

“But when you play professional golf, I just said to the team in there in our meeting, you have good days and you have bad days. We didn't have as good a day as we did yesterday.  It's not the end of the world. 

“It's a disappointing day but it's not the end of the world. I tried to put it in context - if we were playing in an individual tournament, we shot 62 yesterday, shot 72 today, but we are still leading the tournament. And we haven't even played for a third of the points yet, so there's a long way to go.” 

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