Continental Europe got the start they wanted in their bid to win the Seve Trophy for the first time since 2000 when they dominated Thursday’s foursomes, taking a 3.5 to 1.5 lead over Great Britain and Ireland.
Defending champions Great Britain and Ireland were first on the scoreboard thanks to a rock-solid performance from the Scottish duo Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher, who gave them a 3-and-2 victory over Continental Europe’s strongest pairing of Thomas Bjorn of Denmark and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez. Rain and cloudy weather made life difficult.
Three birdies over the last three holes carried Sam Torrance’s lead-off pairing to victory, but the Europeans struck back swiftly.
Captain Jose Maria Olazabal looked on as Ryder Cup winner Nicolas Colsaerts and debutant Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano thrashed the second Scottish pairing of Marc Warren and Scott Jamieson, blowing the match wide open with four straight birdies between them to win 5-and-3.
“The main thing is to win points and that’s what we did. I think the team is really happy today,” a delighted Olazabal said.
As the rain finally gave way to bright sunshine toward the end of the afternoon, Finland’s Mikko Ilonen and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen nursed home a one-hole lead by matching a gritty effort from English pairing Tommy Fleetwood and Chris Wood to give Olazabal his team’s second point on the 18th green.
“Tommy Fleetwood, Chris Wood had a great comeback,” Torrance said. “They had a good chance on 17 feet, about 10 feet and about an eight-footer on the last. Unfortunately they didn’t make either of them and lost one down, but that could have turned either way.”
“Four or five holes to go, we were well down and it almost turned where we could have gone 3-2 ahead, but that’s golf,” added the Scottish skipper, who captained the 2002 Ryder Cup winning team.
The tension mounted with Europe sensing a chance to take a strong lead into day two after being up on the scorecard in the remaining two matches.
A titanic struggle between Italian duo Francesco Molinari and Matteo Manassero and England’s Paul Casey and Simon Khan produced a series of birdies over the final eight holes, before the Britons took a one-shot lead onto the 18th tee. However, a great approach shot to the picturesque final green gave Molinari a birdie putt to draw level and the experienced Italian, who is one of the few players to have a winning record for the Europeans, sunk a 12-footer to share the point.
Olazabal’s team took the day’s final point when Bordeaux native Gregory Bourdy got his Seve Trophy debut off to the perfect start by teaming up with unflappable Dutchman Joost Luiten to win 2-and-1 against Welshman Jamie Donaldson and David Lynn of England.
“I was really pleased with the youngsters and I think Joost [Luiten] played extraordinarily well and made a bunch of birdies [six]” Olazabal said. “Thorbjorn played also very well. I am happy for those two guys, I think it was a great experience for them.”
Bourdy was also pleased with the result, but said there remains room for improvement.
“I think we were a good pair today,” the Frenchman said. “We started very well and maybe that helped us to have some confidence for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, I didn’t play my best on the back nine, but he made some amazing birdies, very strong and so maybe next time it’s going to be my turn to help him a bit more at the end.”