Ballesteros thrilled by Olazabal reunion

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The Independent Online

A golfer ranked 1,231st in the world, who has only made two cuts this season and was fined and reprimanded following a slow-play row, takes centre stage again in the Seve Trophy at El Saler in Valencia. It is, of course, Seve Ballesteros himself, who is captaining the Continent of Europe team in the third match against Great Britain and Ireland.

The mere presence of the great Spaniard tends to have an inspirational effect on these occasions and it was Seve's win over Colin Montgomerie, his opposite number, which enabled Europe to win the inaugural match three years ago.

He even beat Monty again last year, with an approximate strokeplay score of 78 - if ever there was a case of playing the man and not the course, that was it - although Britain and Ireland went on to win for the first time.

Montgomerie claimed tiredness may have been a factor. For the first time he may not play every session of the match, while Ballesteros will have to play more than the solitary fourball he has managed in the last two matches.

"To play Seve is a very daunting task," Montgomerie said. "Someone who chips and putts the way he does is a difficult man to beat.

"Being captain as well as playing is difficult, too. I think I've been tired come Sunday [in the last two matches] and I might take a rest this time."

As there is not enough daylight at this time of year to play a series of fourballs and foursomes on the same day, two sets of five fourballs will be played today and tomorrow, with everyone playing each day, followed by two series of four foursomes on Saturday.

Ballesteros opens up with his old sparring partner, Jose Maria Olazabal, against one of only two pairs ever to have beaten them in team competitions, Lee Westwood and David Howell.

Howell only got into the event when Darren Clarke qualified for the US Tour Championship in Houston but if he is a loss to the visitors, the home side gained Sergio Garcia as the fifth Spaniard in the team after he failed to make the top 30 on the United States money list.

At the Madrid Open two weeks ago, Ballesteros said: "I'm here to participate, but not to compete." This week the 46-year-old Ballesteros sees things differently, and said yesterday: "This time I come to compete. This is matchplay and there's a big difference. All you have to do is just try to beat your opponent somehow."

Ballesteros said of being reunited with Olazabal: "To walk to the first tee will be a very special moment - we're not only good friends, but we have a lot in common. We have played many great matches in the past.To have him next to me is a guarantee that the match will be good. He makes me feel comfortable."

SEVE TROPHY (El Saler, Valencia) Fourballs (today, all times GMT, Continental names first): 09.05 J M Olazabal and S Ballesteros v L Westwood and D Howell. 09.20 I Garrido and M A Jimenez v B Davis and P Casey. 09.35 A Cejka and R Jacquelin v J Rose and I Poulter. 09.50 F Jacobson and N Fasth v P Lawrie and C Montgomerie. 10.05 T Bjorn and S Garcia v P Price and P Harrington.