Continental Europe on the comeback trail

9/18/2011 8:49:54 AM
Anders Hansen  (Getty Images)
Anders Hansen (Getty Images)
Continental Europe appeared determined to make a real fight of the Vivendi Seve Trophy as they led four of the first five singles matches during the early stages.

Trailing 11 1/2-6 1/2 overnight and needing to win eight of the ten singles points to claim their first title since 2000, Continental Europe were off to a flyer.

Jean Van De Velde sent recent back-to-back winner Thomas Björn out first, and while he was three down after five to Lee Westwood, the Frenchman’s side were up in the next four.

Anders Hansen sunk a 15 foot birdie putt at the first and gained another at the next to be two up on Simon Dyson.

Francesco Molinari led Jamie Donaldson by one after three holes - the Italian taking the second after the Welshman had been forced to play his approach left-handed from behind a tree.

Like Hansen, Alex Noren birdied the first two, the latter with a 12 foot putt, to be two up on Robert Rock, while Miguel Angel Jiménez holed a 20 footer at the second to be two up on his former Ryder Cup partner Darren Clarke.

Only World Number Two Westwood was providing any relief for Paul McGinley - whose side only needed three points for a sixth successive title.

Westwood birdied the first from ten feet, third from 30 feet and fifth after a magnificent approach stopped inches from the cup to continue his inspired form. Having lost his opening fourball with Mark Foster the Englishman won his next three outings without going past the 15th.

Björn took advantage of a Westwood three-putt bogey at the sixth and won the par five next with a birdie after pitching to five feet and watching his opponent miss from a similar distance to reduce the deficit to one.

There was some relief for McGinley, however, with rookie David Horsey continuing his putting masterclass with a 25 footer at the first to go one up on Nicolas Colsaerts and Scott Jamieson winning the same hole against Pablo Larrazábal.

Dyson and Donaldson had been unbeaten in their first four games - they were paired together as the lead group for three of them - but both went three down as Hansen holed from five feet at the seventh shortly before Molinari rolled in a 15 footer at the sixth.

Open Champion Clarke fought back  - although Jiménez did himself no favours as he bogeyed the fourth then drove in trees at the next, chipped out, and put his approach shot in thick rough.

That game was all square, as was the match between Larrazábal and Jamieson as the Scot bogeyed the second.

Van De Velde had spoken of loading his top order to get blue on the board early, but his last three out of World Number 32 Matteo Manassero, three-time European Tour winner Raphaël Jacquelin and Ryder Cup star Peter Hanson looked equally formidable.

Italian 18 year old Manassero was certainly in the mood, taking the second and third holes against former World Golf Championships - Accenture Match Play winner Ian Poulter.

Another Westwood bogey at the 11th - he found all sorts of trouble in the trees - left the top game all square, as Noren rolled in a putt from 15 feet to go four up on Rock after eight.

The first red on the board was Horsey - still one up - in game six, although Jamieson was back in front and Mark Foster birdied the second to go one up on Jacquelin.

Like Björn in the top game, Dyson fought back from three down.

His recovery started with a wedge approach to four feet at the eigthand pars at the 11th and 13th were enough to return to all square.

That meant Europe were only up in two, with Great Britain & Ireland up in three and five all square.

But only Noren, who turned five up against Rock, held a commanding lead an there was still all to play for.