x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

The importance of European success in the Seve Trophy

Europe need to come out on top in this year's Seve Trophy to boost interest in the competition.

Jean Van der Velde is hoping to lead Europe to their first Seve Trophy success since 2000.
Jean Van der Velde is hoping to lead Europe to their first Seve Trophy success since 2000.

The last time Continental Europe won the Seve Trophy, the man the tournament is named after holed the vital putt.

That was in 2000, at the Sunningdale Golf Club in England, when Seve Ballesteros beat Colin Montgomerie in the last day singles as he led his team to a 13.5-12.5 victory in the inaugural running of this biennial contest.

Since then, Britain and Ireland have dominated; winning the last five competitions, which organisers know is not good for this tournament.

Just as the Ryder Cup was said to have lost something when, first of all the United States dominated, and then more recently Europe, and the Seve Trophy needs to be a closer run thing or run the risk of it becoming less and less important.

Players such as Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell turned down the chance to represent their islands in France this week, preferring to stay in the US for the FedEx Cup millions, and the fear of organisers is that if this continues to be one-sided contest then more big names will not show up for future stagings of the event.

Paul McGinley, the Britain and Ireland captain, claimed his team were underdogs at St Nom-La-Bretech, where the trophy will be contested this weekend for the first time since the death of Ballesteros in May.

But that only puts more pressure on his counterpart, Jean Van de Velde, who knows that it is time the Continental European team won, and not only for their own personal glory.

"We've played this match six times and [Britain and Ireland] have won the last five; that will be the inspiration for my team," the Frenchman said.

"I have a couple of leaders. Thomas Bjorn is in incredible form. He comes into this match with first-first to his name.

"It's his sixth Seve Trophy and he knows how many times we have lost in a row. He doesn't like to be beaten.

"Miguel-Angel Jimenez never knows when he is beaten, and he has played in three Ryder Cups and all six Seve Trophy matches.

"Then again, I have 10 players who feel that way, too. It's a common interest. They are all champions and if there is one thing they hate more than anything, it's losing."

Lee Westwood, the English world No 2, will spearhead the Britain and Ireland side and a win would almost certainly lead to McGinley being handed the Ryder Cup captaincy for 2014 in Gleneagles.

"Ryder Cup captain? I'm not getting ahead of myself and it's only at the very back of my mind. I am going to put all my strength, all my energy and all my heart into this week," he said.

Although he at least did admit it was at the back of his mind.

ncameron@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE