Sunday, 18 September 2011
Paul McGinley's winning GB & I side  (Getty Images)
Paul McGinley's winning GB & I side (Getty Images)
Great Britain & Ireland’s lower order clung on as they retained the Vivendi Seve Trophy at St-Nom-La-Bretèche - but only after a magnificent fightback from the Continental Europeans.

Trailing 11 1/2-6 1/2 overnight, Jean Van De Velde’s side won the first five singles contests to square the match.

It looked as if they might end their 11-year wait for the title when Nicolas Colsaerts took a half off David Horsey late on, but rookie Scott Jamieson held firm to win a first point for Paul McGinley’s side.

And when Ian Poulter snatched victory from Matteo Manassero on the final green and Mark Foster went one up on the 17th, it guaranteed the 14 1/2 points needed for victory.

It finished 15 1/2-12 1/2, but it was a tremendous effort by the Continental Europeans to take it to the wire after being thoroughly outplayed on the first and third days.

“Lucky I had the team well balanced out, and had not just experience but guys in form balanced throughout the team, so they came through in the end,” McGinley said.

“Scott Jamieson’s match was huge, that kind of turned the tide in our favour.

“I actually focused mostly on Scott’s game, I walked every shot with him from the 14th. I knew how pivotal that match was going to be and he was brilliant.

“I wanted Scott to keep playing pretty conservatively coming in there because it was difficult conditions, and he did exactly as I said.

“I’m so proud of the way he’s come through this week, and he’s just one guy. David Horsey as well, a huge half point there.

“I get a huge sense of satisfaction seeing someone like Scott or David Horsey coming though the way they did. Mark Foster as well, it was pivotal that his game stayed one up, that it stayed in the red or it stayed in the green and it never got into the blue, and he did that. And of course Ross Fisher was a rock at the end.”

Van de Velde had loaded his top order with form players, and it immediately paid off as recent back-to-back winner Thomas Björn came from three down to beat World Number Two Lee Westwood 2 and 1.

Westwood had looked unstoppable as he birdied the first from ten feet, the third from 30 feet and played his approach shot within inches of the cup at the fifth.

But Björn used all his experience to hang tough and errors crept into Westwood’s game after he three-putted the sixth.

The Dane, Captain when Continental Europe lost two years ago, holed a 30 foot putt on the 14th to lead for the first time and when Westwood pulled his approach left into thick rough on the 17th and duffed his chip it was all over.

“Lee came out this morning and was sensational the first few holes,” said Björn. “It was just a case of hanging on and hanging on, but a couple of mistakes and it let me back in. I played some nice stuff near the end but it was a hard-fought battle.”

A wave of blue was sweeping over the leaderboard at that stage and Björn’s compatriot Anders Hansen secured a gritty one up win over Simon Dyson.

The Englishman had won three-and-a-half points out of four over the first three days, but went three down after seven.

Dyson played a magnificent wedge approach to the next to spark a comeback, but no sooner was last week’s KLM Open winner all square than Hansen struck a hammer blow with a 30 footer at the 14th.

A 20 foot putt at the 16th put Hansen dormie two, and although Dyson took the par five next Hansen displayed nerves of steel on the final green to roll in a birdie putt from 25 feet.

If the first two wins were hard fought, the next three games were relatively straightforward for the Continental Europeans.

Francesco Molinari tapped in a two foot birdie putt on the 15th for a 4 and 3 victory over Jamie Donaldson.

The Italian was up-and-running with a par at the second after his Welsh opponent was forced to play his approach left-handed from behind a tree and never looked back.

Alex Noren then beat Robert Rock 4 and 3 - the Englishman failed to make a single birdie - and suddenly there was only one in it.

McGinley might have hoped Open Champion Darren Clarke could stop the rot in game five but the Northern Irishman had a round to forget as he lost 4 and 2 to former Ryder Cup partner Miguel Angel Jiménez to leave the contest tied at 11 1/2-11 1/2.

At that stage both sides needed three points from the last five matches, all of which went to the final hole on a nailbiting day.

Horsey looked set to win a first point for Great Britain & Ireland as he continued his week-long putting masterclass with a 25 foot effort at the first.

He was two up with four to play, but big-hitting Belgian Colsaerts tapped in for birdie at the par five 15th, scrambled par from a bunker at the short next and levelled the contest with an eight footer at the 17th before both players parred the last for a half.

Scotland’s Jamieson added a first win for McGinley’s side with a one up win over Pablo Larrazábal, despite a brave fightback from the Spaniard.

It was an impressive performance from the rookie - all the more so considering the drama that had been going on in the groups ahead.

Needing one and a half points from the last three groups, Poulter produced the goods as he has so many times before in match play.

Having been far from his best all week, the Ryder Cup star and former WGC-Accenture Match Play champion trailed for most of his round against Italian 18 year old Manassero.

One down at the turn, he made a vital 25 foot par save on the 13th, rolled in a 12 foot birdie putt at the 16th to draw level and  - after watching Manassero stiff his approach at the last to 12 feet - played a remarkable shot from the rough to five feet.

That point meant Great Britain & Ireland needed only a half, and moments later Foster guaranteed exactly that by going one up on Raphaël Jacquelin at the 17th.

“I needed to do something to finish,” revealed Poulter. “He hit a great shot and I said to Paul walking down the fairway ‘I'm going to go straight at this’.

“And he's like ‘hang on a minute, hang on a minute’. It was nice, I did go straight at it in the end against his orders but you know what, it came off.

“They played some great golf obviously, so McGinley came out and said to me on one of the holes ‘it's looking like it's pretty much down to your game, so you'd better turn it around’."

Veteran Foster held on at the last for a point, and Ross Fisher took a half off Peter Hanson in what had been an enthralling final contest.

“It's been a team effort this week,” said Fisher.

“Everyone's played with various partners. The big guns, Poults and Westy and Clarke, they have been fantastic. Paul McGinley has been just a tremendous captain, very inspiring, just absolutely brilliant.”

Van De Velde said: “It was extremely close, even going down the stretch.

“As Paul mentioned, it could have swung either way. All credit to Poulter for making three birdies in five holes. You're rarely going to lose a game when that happens when you are only one down.”

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