Continental Europe took the early initiative against Great Britain and Ireland as the Seve Trophy began under cloudy skies yesterday.
Jose Maria Olazabal’s team were three up in the five pairings with only the Scotish team of Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher leading for GB and Ireland with one match all square.
Sam Torrance’s bold decision to send out former British Open winner Lawrie with fellow Scot Gallacher in the first pairing was paying early dividends as they took on European vice captains Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
However, the Europeans, who are bidding to end a run of six straight defeats, were looking strong elsewhere on Saint-Nom-la-Breteche.
Mikko Ilonen immediately hit a rich vein of form on the front nine as his four birdies helped the Finn and his Danish rookie partner Thorbjorn Olesen take charge against the English team of Tommy Fleetwood and Chris Wood.
However, Fleetwood’s birdie at the par four 11th pulled them back to one down before Olesen restored their two-shot lead with a fine birdie at 13.
Dutchman Joost Luiten was having a sparkling debut as he and Gregory Bourdy, the only Frenchman in the side, shared six birdies over the first 10 holes to take a commanding lead of three up against Jamie Donaldson and David Lynn.
Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts used his experience to steady the nerves of rookie partner Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano with a birdie at the opening hole, and the team were one up with eight holes to play.
Finally, in the battle between Italy and England it was the team of Matteo Manassero and Francesco Molinari who took the inital lead before Ryder Cup star Paul Casey and Simon Khan pulled it back.
It was Bourdy’s first taste of a major team tournament.
“Its the first time I’ve played the Seve Trophy. Like Miguel [Angel Jimenez], it’s a big honor to be in the team and I’m very proud to be in that team because it’s in the name of Seve,” he said.