The tedious bit is over. Or that is how Thomas Bjorn, the captain of Continental Europe, views the first two days of the Vivendi Trophy. The Dane, who also happens to be the influential chairman of the Players Committee, yesterday expressed his belief that the Ryder Cup should not, as has been suggested, follow this event's model and go to four days. Why? Because it's "a bit too boring".
Bjorn's honest assessment may just cause a few startled expressions in the sponsor's tent. "The Ryder Cup should stay at three days and why I say that is because I think these [first two days] are a bit too boring," he said. "There's not enough going on and they are not important enough. There's not enough points being put on the board for it to be exciting."
Bjorn's theory is well-founded, as only 10 points are up for grabs on the Thursday and Friday and then 18 on the weekend. However, obviously it will not do much to elevate this event's standing. Perhaps it doesn't need elevating and works entirely well as it is. The Seve Trophy, as the event was known prior to this year, always has been many things to many people.
To the money men it is the Vivendi Trophy; to many in the media it is a pale imitation; while to Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño it has been the chance to admonish the Spanish prime minister live on air. Yet perhaps Oliver Wilson and Simon Dyson summed up yesterday what it means to the boys who truly count. For the young players it is the chance to prove – or in their case reaffirm – that they know exactly what is required in a team event.
In the fourballs what is needed are birdies and the English pair just happened to have 11 of them in their 2&1 defeat of Henrik Stenson and Alvaro Quiros. This match was the high-class opening to a high-class day, which saw Great Britain and Ireland take a 6-4 lead with today's greensomes and foursomes and tomorrow's singles to come. Having comfortably seen off the middle-ranked talents of Soren Hansen and Peter Hanson on Thursday, Paul McGinley pitched the duo against two veritable top-rungers in Stenson and Quiros.
It was another canny move on the Irishman's behalf. If they had been allowed to play the last they could have carded a 59 – a magical number whatever the format. Dyson, in particular was utterly inspired, continuing his astonishing run of form with seven birdies. Quite a turnaround from where he was on Wednesday morning – confined to his hotel room with food poisoning.
"I was at death's door," said the Yorkshireman. "I wouldn't have believed it would turn out so well. Ollie and I wanted to play together after the way we played in this match two years ago and we gelled together once again." They have now won four out of five in their matches together.
They are not McGinley's only 100-percenters here. Chris Wood and Anthony Wall were once again impressive in dismantling Miguel Angel Jimenez and Soren Kjeldsen 3&2. But there was an unexpected defeat for Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, beaten 3&1 by Anders Hansen and Francesco Molinari. The Dane and Italian have won their two matches, as has Fernandez-Castaño. Yesterday's victory was an archetypal nerve-trembler as the Spaniard holed a three-footer on the 18th to deny Robert Rock and Steve Webster. Whatever Bjorn may say about the gripping nature of it all, this could yet prove a vital point for his team.
It's certainly been an interesting week for Fernandez-Castaño. On the first day he was walking from green to tee, unpeeling a banana as a television cameraman shoved a lens under his nose. Here was his opportunity. "Un mensaje para Zapatero: nos vas a dejar en pelotas a todos," he said. ("Message to Zapatero. You're going to strip us all naked.")
The outburst apparently caused an outcry in his country and in a statement the golfer felt obliged to apologise to Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. "I won't do it again," he said yesterday. But what is his gripe, what has his PM done? "Nothing – that's exactly the point," he said. "We have five million unemployed and he doesn't do anything." With that he stomped off; this strange mix of golfing ecstasy and political indignancy. Gonzo's been making his points all over the place here.