Björn leads Continental Europe comeback

9/18/2011 10:52:22 AM
Thomas Bjorn   (Getty Images)
Thomas Bjorn (Getty Images)
Continental Europe were threatening a miraculous comeback in the Vivendi Seve Trophy as they dominated the final day singles.

Great Britain & Ireland had dominated the first and third days to lead 11½-6½ with only ten singles points to play for.

But Continental Europe Captain Jean Van de Velde 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 took the sixth when his opponent three-putted and the seventh with a birdie, pitching to five feet and watching Westwood miss from a similar distance.

When Westwood found trouble in the trees on the 11th it was all square, and Björn holed a 30 foot putt on the 14th to lead for the first time.

Chasing an eagle at the par five 17th, Westwood pulled his approach left in to thick rough and duffed his first chip to hand the contest to the Dane.

“Lee came out this morning and was sensational the first few holes,” said Björn, who was captain when Continental Europe suffered their fifth straight defeat two years ago.

“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.”

The next four ties were also going Continental Europe’s way as a sea of blue swept over the leaderboard, but there was hope for Paul McGinley.

David Horsey was two up on Nicolas Colsaerts in the sixth match, Scott Jamieson three up on Pablo Larrazábal at the turn and Mark Foster led Raphaël Jacquelin by one.

That left the possibility that it would be a trio of rookies claiming the three points Great Britain & Ireland needed for victory.

Francesco Molinari in game three was next to bring home a point for Van de Velde’s side when he 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.

The Ryder Cup star won the fourth with a six foot par putt, and birdied the sixth from 15 feet.

Donaldson won the seventh with a birdie, but bogeyed the next to be three down once more and when Molinari won the 13th with a birdie the writing was on the wall for Donaldson.

Anders Hansen made it three from three for Continental Europe with a gutsy one up win over Simon Dyson.

The Englishman had won three-and-a-half points out of four over the first three days, but Hansen took the first with a 15 foot birdie and added another at the second to be two up after two.

Hansen took the seventh with a five foot birdie putt, before Dyson played a magnificent wedge approach to the next to spark a comeback.

He won the 11th and 13th, but no sooner was last week’s KLM Open winner all square than Hansen sunk a 30 footer at the 14th to lead again.

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. 

Alex Noren then beat Robert Rock 4 and 3 - the Englishman failed to make a single birdie - and suddenly the score was 11½-10½.

Like Hansen before him, the Swede had birdied the first two holes, the latter from 12 feet.

A 15 footer at the eighth helped him turn five up and although Rock took the tenth and 12th with pars, Noren won the 13th and drew the next two to make it four from four at the top of the order for Continental Europe.

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.

That squared the scores, the Spaniard another to win the first two with birdies.

Clarke did birdie the ninth from eight feet to be all square at the turn, but his card was littered with dropped shots after that and when his tee shot went in the water at the 16th the pair shook hands. 

The 11th hole provided some relief for Great Britain & Ireland - after Jacquelin had won four in a row to lead Foster by one the Englishman sank a 50 foot putt to be all square.

And moments later Peter Hanson missed a six foot putt to hand the hole to Ross Fisher, who led the bottom game one up as a result. 

Horsey had continued his week-long putting masterclass with a 25 foot effort at the first and looked good for Great Britain & Ireland’s first point at two up with four to play.

But big-hitting Belgian Nicolas 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.

Both players parred the last for a half to make it 12-12. 

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, Great Britain & Ireland had Fisher two up with three to play while Ian Poulter and Matteo Manassero were all square coming down the last, as were Foster and Jacquelin a hole further back. 

Poulter was never ahead in his match, but snatched it one up at the last after a sublime approach to five feet from the rough.

And with Foster going one up at the 17th, Great Britain & Ireland were certain to get the half required to retain the trophy.