Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Molinari denies GB and Ireland

England's Simon Khan was forced to withdraw from the Seve Trophy on Sunday due to a back injury.

Continental Europe won the Seve Trophy for the first time in 13 years on Sunday, Francesco Molinari keeping his cool to edge out Great Britain and Ireland's Chris Wood in the final singles match at St Nom La Breteche.

GB and Ireland had emerged triumphant in each of the last six contests, and headed into the final day locked at 9-9 with Jose Maria Olazabal's side after a spirited fightback in Saturday's foursomes.

There remained little to separate the teams as the singles competition progressed in north-central France.

And, just as at last year's Ryder Cup at Medinah, it all came down to Molinari in the anchor role to seal the victory. T he Italian held his nerve for a 3&2 triumph over Englishman Wood to hand Continental Europe a 15-13 success.

The day started with each team awarded half a point after GB and Ireland's Simon Khan had to pull out with a back injury, with Thomas Bjorn volunteering to step aside for the Continental Europe team as a result.

Khan did not feature in Saturday's two foursomes sessions after hurting his back and, despite undergoing physio treatment, was not fit to take his place in the singles line-up.

The Englishman's withdrawal meant one of the Continental Europe team was required to miss out, and Bjorn - the second most capped player in the competition's history - selflessly put himself forward in order to give some youngsters the chance to benefit from the experience.

Englishman Tommy Fleetwood picked up his first point of the week with a 3&2 win over Joost Luiten, ending the Dutchman's 100 per cent record in the process, to put GB and Ireland ahead.

Welshman Jamie Donaldson and Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano then halved the scrappy opening duel, before Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts sank a five-foot putt on the final green to get the better of Englishman Paul Casey.

Frenchman Gregory Bourdy stormed past Scotland's Scott Jamieson to become the first player in the tournament's history to claim five points from five.

Scot Marc Warren won 4&3 against Dane Thorbjorn Olesen to level the match again at 12-12, but by that stage Olazabal's side had control in three of the last four ties.

Olazabal acknowledged a solid start had been vital, but reserved particular praise for Bourdy.

"I think the first two matches were crucial. To get a point and a half out of those two was big," the Spaniard said on Sky Sports 2.

"A special mention for him (Bourdy) - especially in front of his home crowd, in front of his people. The way he played, being a rookie, he did extraordinarily well.

"This is a team event. Everyone contributed, and obviously Greg did it in a big way."

He added: "Everything went to the last match. The boys played really well today and I'm really happy to have won the Seve Trophy this time.

"I know starting from all square it was going to go down to the last three matches."

Miguel Angel Jimenez, spurred by four birdies in his first six holes, thrashed England's David Lynn 6&4 before Italian Matteo Manassero got Europe to the 14-point mark by toppling Scot Stephen Gallacher 3&2.

Scotland's Paul Lawrie held on for a 2&1 win over Finn Mikko Ilonen, meaning it would all come down to the final match-up.

And Molinari, who took a two-up lead down the closing stretch, rounded things off in style, not just clinching the half he required but sinking a 12-foot birdie putt on 16 to defeat Wood 3&2.

The 25-year-old from Bristol had been scheduled to face Bjorn, but moved down the order to play Molinari in the final game as a result of Khan's withdrawal.

Molinari felt it was always going to come down to the anchor game, and was delighted - if not surprised - to have had a part to play.

"It feels great," he said.

"For all the times we've lost in the past... it's never a good feeling to end on the losing side.

"It was all to play for today. It was funny yesterday when Olazabal was reading the list. I kind of knew I was going to be last. I was waiting to hear my name and I didn't until the 10th spot. It's great, for everyone.

"I tried to stay away from the leaderboard as much as possible, but then you see everyone coming to watch your match! It's good to finish it in style with two birdies. Chris played well all week, so it was a good win for me.

"It (the pressure) is not like Ryder Cup but it's a lot. You've got nine team-mates and you don't want to let anyone down."

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