Harrington and Olazabal in bust-up over pitch marks

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The Independent Online

Rarely has an international match ended in such a curious and unfortunate manner as the Seve Trophy at El Saler yesterday. When Padraig Harrington holed the winning putt for Great Britain and Ireland he was completely oblivious to the fact. Yet instead of being duly congratulated by his team-mates, the Irishman was then involved in a heated debate with his opponent, Jose Maria Olazabal.

As news filtered through to the 18th green that due to results elsewhere the halved match between Harrington and Olazabal was enough to guarantee GB and Ireland victory over the Continental Europe, the pair talked in a corner of the green by some hospitality boxes for fully quarter of an hour while another match concluded in front of them.

The point of discussion was an incident back at the third green, where Olazabal was eight feet from the hole and Harrington 10 feet away. There were a couple of marks on the Spaniard's line and while Olazabal was sure they were pitch marks, which are repairable, Harrington was not.

Harrington was in the process of turning to check with a referee when he realised Olazabal had already repaired the marks. When Harrington raised the matter, Olazabal immediately conceded the hole to put the Irishman one-up.

In a game that was always close but played in a difficult atmosphere from then on, Olazabal was twice one-up on the back nine. Both hit superb tee-shots at the 17th to halve it with two shots each before Harrington's approach to three feet at the last enabled him to square the match.

"It was an uncomfortable match," Harrington said. "I wasn't trying to question his integrity but that is what he felt. I understand his point of view. I fully believe that he thought they were pitch marks. I wasn't clear. I was probably 50-50 while he was probably 100 per cent."

"We had different opinions," Olazabal said. "We talked about it and I don't want to waste any more time talking about it." Harrington added: "It's not worth losing a friend over, not for a point or for half a point. I won't be celebrating this evening. I had no idea I had the winning putt because I hadn't been watching any leaderboards."

Britain and Ireland's task of winning four and a half points from the 10 singles was made easier when Thomas Bjorn had to withdraw moments before his match against Paul Casey with a recurrence of his old neck injury. Although the envelope substitution rule was in place, as in the Ryder Cup, it expires half an hour before the start of play so the point was conceded by Continental Europe.

In their third meeting, Colin Montgomerie finally beat his opposing captain, Seve Ballesteros, for the first time but only after being two-down on the eighth tee.

The natural order was restored when the Scot then won the seven holes. "I know my team were having a good laugh at my expense when they saw I was two-down again," Monty said.

David Howell added another point to end Alex Cejka's winning streak and in a terrific encounter, Fredrik Jacobson, who finished as the only unbeaten player, added Europe's second point with a 2 and 1 win over Lee Westwood.

Just when a comfortable victory looked assured, Justin Rose, who was five up and dormie, lost a couple of holes to Raphael Jacquelin, while Ian Poulter ended up with only a half after being three up with six to play against Miguel Angel Jimenez.

But Rose holed a long putt at the 16th to clinch his match just as Harrington holed out on the 18th. After a 15-13 victory that retained the trophy for the visitors, Montgomerie said: "This is a great tournament and it has given a lot of the rookies a good idea about what to expect in the Ryder Cup."

* Chad Campbell, a Texan, finished with a 10-under-par 61 in the third round of the Tour Championship in Houston, breaking the tournament record and taking him to a one-stroke lead. Tiger Woods missed four putts from inside 10 feet to finish 11 shots off the lead. His four-year reign on top of the USPGA Tour money-list almost certainly ended when Vijay Singh finished eight strokes behind Campbell - good enough for the Fijian to seem certain to claim the money-list title.

SEVE TROPHY (Valencia, Sp): Continental Europe v Great Britain and Ireland: Final day (Continental names first, Great Britain and Ireland led 10-8 overnight): Singles: Seve Ballesteros lost to Colin Montgomerie 5 and 4; Alex Cejka lost to David Howell 1 hole; Ignacio Garrido bt Paul Lawrie 3 and 2; Fredrik Jacobson bt Lee Westwood 2 and 1; Jose Maria Olazabal halved with Padraig Harrington; Niclas Fasth halved with Ian Poulter; Thomas Bjorn (withdrew, injured) lost to Paul Casey; Raphael Jacquelin lost to Justin Rose 3 and 2; Miguel Angel Jimenez bt Brian Davis 2 and 1; Sergio Garcia bt Phillip Price 4 and 3.

Singles result: Continental Europe 5 GB and Ireland 5.

Match result: Continental Europe 13 GB and Ireland 15.