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Monday, 19 September 2011
Thomas Bjorn and Lee Westwood  (Getty Images)
Thomas Bjorn and Lee Westwood (Getty Images)

Vivendi Seve Trophy captains, Jean Van de Velde and Paul McGinley, have paid tribute to the courageous efforts of the Continental Europeans after Thomas Björn led a stirring attempted comeback of swashbuckling proportion, befitting the great Seve Ballesteros’s own fearless mentality.

Despite ultimately falling short after an inspired final five holes from Ian Poulter that secured the victory for Great Britain and Ireland, the Continental European team’s efforts did much to elevate the excitement and entertainment value of what was a sublime final day of golf.

Continental Europe captain, Van de Velde, said: “I really take my hat off to the players and to the spirit of those guys.  It shows the strength of character they all have, and for that I'm very thankful to them and very proud.

“Starting from the top of the board from Thomas to Anders to Francesco to Alexander, Miguel, Nicolas, Matteo, Raphaël, Peter, nobody ever put their head down.  At the end of the day, that's what you want to see.”

The Continentals had got off to a flying start thanks to Denmark’s Thomas Björn, who came from three down to eventually beat World Number Two Lee Westwood 2&1.

“Lee played absolutely unbelievable early on and when he's like that, he's very difficult to keep up with,” said Björn.

“But I had a long chat with José [María Olazábal] yesterday about match play and how you just try and keep yourself there, and I did that,” he continued.  “I fought very hard and battled all the way, and then when I get my tail up, there's always some good stuff in there.

“You've got to be proud of that, to go out against arguably the best player from tee to green in the world, but I stuck in there and I'm proud of what I did today.”

And GB&I captain McGinley praised the drive of the Continental Europeans and admitted the turnaround in the lead match had surprised him.

“I have to give credit to Jean and his team, how motivated they were and how his top players turned around the deficit and got the momentum going in their favour.  Jean did a lot right today.  I think he really got his team flying.

“The first match, I knew was going to be close between Thomas and Lee, but if you told me Lee would be three up after five and still lose his game, I would say, not in a million years, who would have thought that.  All credit to Thomas for that.”

McGinley also acclaimed the efforts of another Dane, Anders Hansen, who overcame an in-form Simon Dyson by one hole.

“Anders Hansen is a dogged competitor,” he said.  “I knew that at number two and he wins his singles every time, nothing surer.  I think he shot ten or 11 under par beating Nick Dougherty two years ago, he's a hell of a player.”

Van de Velde also reserved a special mention for Italian Matteo Manassero, who had on Thursday became the youngest ever competitor in the Vivendi Seve Trophy, and who eventually succumbed to Poulter on the final green.

“Matteo, what can I say?” asked the Continental captain. “It could have swung both ways.  You know, it's decided one way instead of the other, and there were a few phenomenal shots from Ian down the stretch.

“For a young man to play against Ian Poulter and to stand up to him, that was a wonderful performance.”

There was a special moment on the 18th green in the final singles match between Peter Hanson and Ross Fisher that was widely recognised as a fitting tribute to the spirit of the man whose name adorns the competition, and Van de Velde believed it was a gesture of which Seve Ballesteros would have approved.

He said: “That was a great suggestion, and I congratulated both of them for that.  The game was all over.

“I think they both put on such a great fight and they have so much respect for each other.  They just wanted to share that point for the spirit of Seve.  Great sportsmanship there.”

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