It was like old times, a young Spaniard thrilling a British gallery. With the Continentals trailing Great Britain and Ireland 3-1 going into the afternoon fourballs at the Seve Ballesteros Trophy, something spectacular was needed. Sergio Garcia produced two eagles on the front nine of Sunningdale's Old Course, making a three at the first and holing a bunker shot for a two at the ninth. Turn the clock back 20 years and this could have been Ballesteros himself. Sadly, at 43, the old maestro was looking his age.
Having sat out the morning foursomes, Ballesteros pitched himself into the fray with his former sparring partner, Jose Maria Olazabal. Fairways are never much a part of either man's game and both found the bushes on the right of the first.
So it would continue, but the suspicion that they would find a way to win some how was given credence as they recovered from two-down after five against Lee Westwood and David Howell to level the match at the eighth. Here there was one moment to cheer for the man whose career this tournament celebrates as his six-iron finished 18 inches behind the flag at the par-three hole.
But Westwood holed from 45 feet at the 10th and Howell from 18 feet at the next and the English pair held on to defeat the most successful Ryder Cup partnership 2 and 1. Only Hal Sutton and Larry Mize, in 1987, and Tom Kite and Davis Love, in 1993, had previously enjoyed such an experience.
Though Great Britain and Ireland then led 4-1, Garcia and Jarmo Sandelin, who himself eagled the 14th, beat the home anchor pairing of Colin Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie 3 and 2 as the Continentals rallied to end the day level at 4-4. The committed followers who braved the chill had divided loyalties and Ballesteros appreciated the warmth of the reception his team received. "I am not surprised the public have come here in large numbers," he said. "It confirms what I always knew, that the British fans are the best in the world."
It was a contented Darren Clarke who passed by the sausage hut behind the 10th green yesterday morning, after he and Westwood, Ryder Cup partners, had added their sixth birdie on the way to beating the German pairing of Bernhard Langer and Alex Cejka, 4 and 3, in the foursomes. "It was nice to resume the partnership," Westwood said. The pair have been taking on all-comers with confidence in practice rounds since beating Tiger Woods and David Duval in the fourballs at Brookline. "We feel comfortable together," added Westwood, who is another trying a change of caddie to reinvigorate his form. "Darren knows this place like the back of his hand and helped me when I needed."
Montgomerie chose to partner Ian Woosnam in the opening game and the Welshman got over his recent putting problems long enough to hole a 20-footer for eagle at the 14th. They beat Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez, 2 and 1, while in the bottom match Jean van de Velde and the 20-year-old Garcia, the only other team not to drop a shot in the foursomes series, won 3 and 2 against the Scots Paul Lawrie and Gary Orr.
Sunningdale, celebrating its centenary and boasting Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie as its 2000 captain, was due to stage the Solheim Cup later this year but ended up being gazumped by Loch Lomond. The women's version of the Ryder Cup has always tended to be more competitive in the interview room than on the course.
It became obvious there was no love lost between the Seve Trophy teams when the final morning match reached the 18th. Both pairings had two-foot putts for par but, with the captains looking on, none of the four players dared mutter the words "good, good", so familiar to the Sunday morning friendly. Thomas Bjorn, who, with Robert Karlsson, had been two-up with four to play, missed his; Phil Price, playing alongside Padraig Harrington, did not.
Harrington, who won two weeks ago in Brazil before finishing 19th on his debut in the Masters, is proving a doughty competitor. "Padraig is growing into a real star," Montgomerie said. "Someone you can really trust to come through and win."
SEVE BALLESTEROS TROPHY: Europe v Great Britain & Ireland (Sunningdale; Europe first) First day: Morning Foursomes: J M Olazabal & M A Jimenez lost to I Woosnam & C Montgomerie 2 and 1; A Cejka & B Langer lost to D Clarke & L Westwood 4 and 3; R Karlsson & T Bjorn lost to P Harrington & P Price 1 hole; S Garcia & J Van de Velde bt P Lawrie & G Orr 3 and 2. Morning match score: Great Britain & Ireland 3 Europe 1. Afternoon fourballs: J M Olazabal & S Ballesteros lost to L Westwood & D Howell 2 and 1; T Bjorn & M A Jiminez bt D Clarke & J Bickerton 1 up; A Cejka & B Langer bt I Woosnam & P Harrington 2 and 1; J Sandelin & S Garcia bt P Lawrie & C Montgomerie 3 and 2. Score: Great Britain & Ireland 4 Europe 4.