José María Olazábal is hoping the memory of Seve Ballesteros will serve to inspire his Continental Europe team to glory against their GB & Ireland counterparts in the tournament which bears the name of his great friend, the Seve Trophy by Golf+.
Olazábal, who masterminded Europe’s stunning success at Medinah Country Club last year, is bidding to reverse recent form against a GB&I team which will be led at Saint-Nom-La-Bretèche by another former Ryder Cup-winning captain, Sam Torrance.
GB&I have won the last six editions of the Seve Trophy by Golf+, but Olazábal is hopeful his blend of youth and experience will give Continental Europe the edge in an event which will consist of a series of five fourball matches on each of the first two days, two sessions of four foursomes on Saturday and ten singles on the final day. As with The Ryder Cup, a team requires 14½ points for victory.
Olazábal will be able to call on two of the players who featured in the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ in Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and Italian Francesco Molinari, as well as two of his vice captains, Denmark’s Thomas Björn and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiménez.
That high-quality quartet will be joined in Paris by Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who received a late call up on Monday after Swede Peter Hanson was forced to withdraw with an on-going back injury, Finn Mikko Ilonen and Italian Matteo Manassero, and three debutants in Frenchman Grégory Bourdy, Dutchman Joost Luiten and Dane Thorbjørn Olesen.
Olazábal said: “This tournament means a lot to me for reasons that I think everyone knows. It is a competition that was very close to Seve’s heart and something that meant a lot to him. For me to be captain is very special and a great honour.
“Of course I want to win, and so do the players. The fighting spirit is going to be there, and I think the European team have to show that and try to improve our recent record.
“But it won’t change the relationship between the players. That is the beauty of this game – we will give everything we have on the course, but once it is over we will shake hands and be friends. That’s what Seve would have wanted.”
The GB&I team includes Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, another member of last year’s historic Ryder Cup team, and Englishman Paul Casey, a three-time Ryder Cup player.
Englishman Chris Wood, who was undefeated on his last appearance in 2009, returns to the fold, along with Scotland’s Marc Warren – who last featured in 2007 – his compatriot Scott Jamieson and Welshman Jamie Donaldson, both part of the victorious team two years ago.
There are also four debutants, with the English trio of Tommy Fleetwood, David Lynn, and Simon Khan joined by Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher.
Torrance said: “I think anything with the legacy of Seve attached to it this event is very, very special, so it means a great deal to me to be asked back. I didn’t expect it to be honest, it came quite out of the blue but it’s a great honour. I’m really looking forward to it, and I know the players are too.
“In some ways it is a stepping stone to The Ryder Cup – a taste of The Ryder Cup, if you like – and that is fantastic for these kids.”
With that in mind, Europe’s current Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley will also be in attendance to run the rule over potential members of the European team which will take on the United States at Gleneagles next year.
Qualification for both teams for the Seve Trophy by Golf+ started in December 2012 at the Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa, and concluded after the 70° Open d’Italia Lindt.
The two teams were chosen from the leading five available players from the Official World Gold Ranking on Monday September 23, and the leading five available players from The Race to Dubai.
Continental Europe won the first edition of the event 13 years ago, whilst Great Britain and Ireland have won the last six matches in succession, claiming a 15½-12½ success two years ago at St-Nom-La Bretèche Golf Club, which hosts the event for the third consecutive time.