McIlroy leads way as Britain and Ireland close in on win

Ballesteros 'unlikely' to present trophy after treatment leaves him fatigued

Officials at the Vivendi Trophy revealed it is "highly unlikely" that Seve Ballesteros will make the trip here today to hand out the silverware which bears his inspirational figure. That is a pity in so many respects, but perhaps a consolation in at least one regard. For Seve's beloved Continentals have been scattered all over Versailles these last three days.

Thomas Bjorn's side are 121/2-51/2 down and two points away from being put out of their misery in the remaining 10 singles matches. This has been one of the finest performances of a professional golfing team representing Great Britain and Ireland. Seen as underdogs coming in, Paul McGinley's young pups have shown all the pedigree so far, gnawing their opponents to within an inch of their dignity – and even closer with yesterday's 61/2-11/2 scoreline in the greensomes and foursomes.

As putt after putt has rolled in it has been possible to pose the question: who needs Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey Luke Donald and, dare we mention him, Ian Poulter?

Well, Colin Montgomerie, for one. The Vivendi Trophy is to the Ryder Cup what the Community Shield is to the Champions' League and the Scot still needs the nerveless old guard on side. As he may just have indicated with something resembling a climbdown yesterday.

"What I said about Poulter was a compliment and he should take it as such," said Montgomerie. Ah, the only reason he so forcefully stated his disappointment at the Englishman's no-show was because, as Ryder Cup captain, he wanted to see him in action. That makes a bit of sense.

Or does it? In fact, wasn't Poulter spot on when saying, in the midst of the latest blow-up between the pair, "The Vivendi will be awesome to highlight some potential new Ryder Cup players in McIlroy, Fisher, Quiros, Dougherty [and] Wood." The first-named would have played anyway, but without the mass withdrawal, Chris Wood would have been back in Bristol. The 21-year-old just happens to be the only player who has a four-out-of-four record and even Montgomerie is thankful for his presence.

"I haven't seen much of Chris play before," he said. "He's extremely good, and is one I'm watching closely." There are others, not least the two captains. Montgomerie went out of his way not to praise McGinley at the expense of Bjorn but still, he hardly short-changed the Irishman in credit.

"He's taken to captaincy like a fish to water – incredible," said Montgomerie, drawing particular attention to the Irishman's "psychology" and "thoroughness". Montgomerie must keep waiting until McGinley's playing ambitions run dry to formally announce him as a vice-captain. But announce him he will. As he eventually will Bjorn and, the stubborn Spaniard willing, Jose Maria Olazabal.

Yet it won't end there, as the Monty back-room takes on the feel of a conservatory. If this week's watching brief has told him anything it is that he will need assistants. Golfing folklore already has Nick Faldo going into last year's dust-up in Kentucky with just Olazabal at his side.

"I need a minimum of four," Monty said. "I've learned in my buggy here that it's very difficult to watch golf on the course, so I've put my minimum requirement to the Tour and they've accepted it. I require someone with every game at least. I've realised I need help." People have been saying that for years, Monty.

Some things take little working out, however. Take Rory McIlroy. In three of his four matches with Graeme McDowell, he was first out and was the shining light. In the other McGinley put him in the third group and his talent was dimmed. "There is a mindset there, a definite mindset," said Montgomerie. "He's a very quick player, he likes to get on with it. I like players like that. I get on with it myself."

But surely when it comes to the real thing, he would not contemplate opening up the European challenge with not only a player who happens to be a rookie, but a player who happens to be a 21-year-old rookie? "Why not?" replied Montgomerie. "We have a very special case in Rory, our brightest star in Europe."

McIlroy will be the first out again here this morning and unless Henrik Stenson returns to his brilliant best, he could well be the first to march back in. The young Ulsterman's dream was to have Ballesteros here waiting. Alas, the latest batch of radiotherapy for the brain cancer which struck the Spaniard down last year has left him too fatigued to travel.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy