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Monday, 19 September 2011
Simon Dyson's partnership with Jamie Donaldson proved a great success  (Getty Images)
Simon Dyson's partnership with Jamie Donaldson proved a great success (Getty Images)

As Great Britain and Ireland reflect on a job well done in Saint-Nom-La-Bretèche, having emerged 15½ - 12½ victors over the Continental Europeans in what was a thrilling final day’s play, europeantour.com looks back over a fabulous four days in France and pinpoints the key factors that led Paul McGinley’s side to glory.

Rookies

The Great Britain and Ireland side featured no fewer than four Vivendi Seve Trophy debutants: Jamie Donaldson, Mark Foster, David Horsey and Scott Jamieson, and the quartet made the most of the opportunity.

Paul McGinley, GB&I captain, credited Jamieson’s singles match victory over Pablo Larrazábal on Sunday as the turning point on what had, until that point, indisputably been a day belonging to Continental Europe.

“Scott Jamieson’s match was huge, that kind of turned the tide in our favour,” McGinley said after a dramatic final session. “I actually focused mostly on his game and walked every shot with him from the 14th. I knew how pivotal that match was going to be and he was brilliant.”

The Scotsman, who only last year graduated from the Challenge Tour, admitted it was the most pressure he had ever felt in his short career, but he amassed  three vital points over the course of the week.

Englishman David Horsey, currently 34th in this year’s Race to Dubai, also accrued  three points, including a crucial half point in his singles match against Nicolas Colsaerts, before which the Continentals had packed the leaderboard with blue after five wins out of five in the early stages of the singles.  

“I get a huge sense of satisfaction seeing someone like Scott or David Horsey coming though the way they did,” McGinley added. “Mark Foster as well, it was pivotal that his game stayed one up and it never got into the blue, and he did that.”

The Dyson/Donaldson Twosome

Despite having both lost in their singles matches on Sunday, Simon Dyson and rookie Jamie Donaldson’s partnership was undefeated in the fourballs and greensomes and yielded the Great Britain and Ireland side two and a half points.

The Anglo-Welsh pairing are firm friends off the course and this was reflected in a dynamic and effective combination, defeating Spanish duo Miguel Angel Jimenez and Pablo Larrazábal 2&1 on day one, halving the second fourball match with Thomas Björn and Raphaël Jacquelin, then beating rookies Colsaerts and Matteo Manassero 2&1 in the Saturday morning greensomes.

“We just played well together,” said Dyson, a member of the successful 1999 Walker Cup Team. “We gelled really well, and we would have been very tough to beat by any group, I think. We are both playing really good golf - JD just missed out in Switzerland, and I managed to nip one last week [at the KLM Open].”

“We had great fun,” added Donaldson. “When it wasn't Dys birdieing it was me birdieing.  We gelled perfectly in the end and like Dys said we were very tough to beat.”

Astute Captaincy

McGinley lives and breathes team golf, and it showed this week in France. The Irishman played an instrumental role in the victorious 2010 European Ryder Cup Team as one of Colin Montgomerie’s Vice-Captains at The Celtic Manor Resort, having also banked the experience of previously captaining GB&I to the Vivendi Seve Trophy in 2009.

McGinley simply knows what it takes to win team golf events, having played in three consecutive successful Ryder Cup Teams from 2002, and he retains an enduring passion for the format, a passion which doesn’t go unrecognised by the players performing under his stewardship.

“Paul McGinley has been just a tremendous captain, very inspiring, just absolutely brilliant,” said Ross Fisher, while rookie  Foster added: “He was brilliant with me and he's a great captain.”

Like any great sporting leader, McGinley’s man-management skills were key to GB&I’s exhilarating triumph, and having – albeit inadvertently – inherited a team with a variety of experience and youth it was up to the captain to formulate a winning blend of the two.

McGinley’s use of Lee Westwood proved a masterstroke.  Paired with a rookie each time in the fourballs, greensomes, and foursomes, Westwood garnered three wins out of four, repaying McGinley’s faith in his knowledge and skill, and the influence he could exert on debutants Foster and Horsey.

A word of praise must also be reserved for Continental Europe captain Jean Van de Velde who almost succeeded in completing a mission impossible on singles Sunday, having begun the day five points adrift.

Van de Velde, somewhat in the mould of Sam Torrance at the Belfry in 2002, packed the top order with his stars and it paid off with Europe taking five points from the opening five matches and with it providing the spectators with an electrifying final day’s play.

Ian Poulter

It says something about Ian Poulter that, despite never being at his best during the four days in Paris, the Hitchin man emerged from the Vivendi Seve Trophy as leading points scorer with a total of four points from five matches.

Poulter is a match play connoisseur, as was proved by his victories at the 2010 WGC-Accenture Match Play and 2011 Volvo World Match Play Championships, not to mention his three points from four at The 2010 Ryder Cup.

Poulter is unquestionably a gritty competitor who revels in the cut-and-thrust of match play golf and in the thrills of a team environment.

This was exemplified by his inch-perfect approach to the 18th green on Sunday, a shot that would lead to the birdie that retained the Vivendi Seve Trophy.

“He absolutely loves it,” laughed McGinley.  “The ultimate competitor, the ultimate match player, the guy you want to have in your corner coming down the last few holes.

“I think he birdied three of the last five?  I mean, awesome, just awesome. What a guy to have on your team.”

And McGinley believes last week’s events in France can only bode well for next year in Medinah in The 2012 Ryder Cup.

“Aren't we lucky as Europeans to have him, and to have Lee Westwood as well.  You take those two and they can play America on their own nearly.”

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